orzo with spiced tomato sauce and feta

This is our new weeknight staple. It's much more than it looks; the toasted spices give the tomato sauce another dimension, and while I love simple pasta pomodoro, it's a nice to mix up a weeknight pasta. Most of the fresh ingredients can be bought at a (pretty good) corner shop. Dried oregano will stand in for fresh.

serves 4

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp nigella seeds
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
A pinch of chilli powder
800g fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped with cores removed, or 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 small bunch of fresh oregano, leaves picked, or a good pinch of dried
200g orzo
Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, to finish
200g feta cheese

Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add the cumin, coriander and nigella seeds. Toast for a minute or so, until they release their fragrance. Add a splash of oil to the pan, then add the onion, garlic and chilli powder and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and sweet.

Add the tomatoes and a good pinch of salt and pepper to the pan. Stir and cook for about 20 minutes, until they have formed a sweet, soupy tomato sauce; you can add a little water to loosen the mixture. Add the oregano to the pan and season well with salt and pepper, remembering that you will be adding salty feta at the end.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in salted boiling water for about 10 minutes, or a couple of minutes less than the packet instructions - you want it to be just less than al dente. Drain the pasta, keeping a mugful of the cooking water.

Add the orzo to the tomato sauce and let everything cook for a minute or two, adding a little of the pasta water to loosen everything - you are looking for a thick, souplike consistency. Serve the pasta with a generous helping of olive oil and crumble over the feta. Eat right away.

The Sunday Times Magazine

3rd October 2017
Made this today and found there wasn’t enough for two people when quantities were cut in half. Suggest either adding another 50% of everything or using the full amount shown, for two and not four.
Possibly crush the seeds.
Add feta to sauce for a few seconds before serving.
Try adding freshly cooked chunks of chicken.