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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Googlefu PastaFail

You all know that orzo is, right? Basically, it's pasta that shaped like rice. So that they look like rice grains. You can get dried orzo in all sorts of markets. But I am really curious - how does one make orzo? Specially on an industrial scale. Most pasta shapes can be traced to some kind of extruder, be they macaroni or fettucini, ziti or even the funky farfalle (bowtie). But orzo mystifies me a bit. The shape, although small, isn't obviously the product of an extruder, unless the die hole is capable of enlarging and shrinking as the pasta dough goes through it.

As with any modern age, I plumb the internet search engines looking for the process behind the manufacture of orzo - and come up with a lot of recipes of how to cook pre-manufactured orzo, but none on how to make it. Is it even possible to make orzo at home?

So, dear readers, do you know how orzo originated? How is it made originally (no, not from a box in a supermarket)? And how is it manufactured in factories?


  1. Still working, so I haven't dug too deeply, but it sure beats writing slides.

    After a few hunting searches, looking for "orzo machine" yielded this towards the bottom of the first page of results:

    Cut by hand with a knife, and definitely bigger than a grain of rice, but the idea is the same. I bet you could extrude this well enough through an oval shaped die, cut it finely, and it would shrink as it dries?

  2. Hi, coffemike, thanks for doing the research. I can see this, except that's not what orzo looks like out of a package - it really does resemble rice in that it is radially symmetrical, not flat. This type of extrusion and cutting only produces flat shapes. To get to the rice grain style shape, you need some way of rounding them cut pieces out. Maybe by panning?

  3. According to this, it a "grated" pasta. Fascinating.

  4. Hah! Okay, found it. It is extruded, I'll claim - attached is a link to commercial, industrial-scale pasta dies. Last chart shows the tiny shapes.

    Beyond that, I'd have to write Barilla or another manufacturer.

    See also:
    (Dried Pasta section)

    Funny enough, I found these by googling for "pasta extruder dies orzo". This post is the top hit.

  5. Grating certainly makes sense with regards to the shape of orzo. Meaning that there's an odd relationship between orzo and spaetzle.

    To scale up, I suppose the majority of pastas are extruded, although I'll admit that I'd love to see how this peculiar "rice" shape gets formed from the extrusion process.

  6. Oh, thanks for all the additional research.