Rice-A-Roni® began as a well liked Armenian recipe for Vince DeDomenico and family. it was fried rice and pasta which was then simmered in broth with spices.

Rice-A-Roni was launched commercially In 1958, when Vince decided that he could make a dry version for sale in markets. the name comes from the half rice, half pasta ingredients. Chicken was Vince's first flavor and it was distributed only in the northwest United States. The slogan "The San Francisco Treat!" was an original artifact of the first advertisements.

Rice-A-Roni was instantly popular and over the years, it spread across the United States and included several more flavors. Spanish Rice-A-Roni is the only vegetarian product in the line.

"God, I'm hungry!"
"Well, why don't you make some of the Rice-A-Roni® we bought?"
*cabinet creaks* "Oh no! There's none left!"
(SFX: musical chord of doom)

Why wait till you go to the store? Now you can....

Make Your Own Rice-A-Roni®

Mmmmmm. I never knew what made Rice-A-Roni so delicious. There were these... little things... the little golden brown things, you know, the things that probably aren't rice, maybe they're a kind of pilaf... yeah, that's probably what did it. They gave the rice these little moments of... smoothness, you know? Mmm, yum. And of course the whole thing was chock-full of funny artificial flavors and preservatives and salt, which I figured was most of the reason I liked it. I could never reproduce this at home! It's like... twinkies or something.

Wrong!

I finally had this revelation halfway through an episode of 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray. She was making "Roni 'n' Rice." And a bolt of lightning hit me. Rice-A-Roni was... rice with macaroni! Rice with little bits of pasta in it! My god! It's full of stars!

Tragically, I forgot all about this -- other than, perhaps, as a fun fact to present to people who already knew it -- until just now.

The following is a combination of the recipes from Rachael Ray and Paula Deen, two of the Food Network's shining stars.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter (organic, damnit! Be nice to the cows!)
  • Half a pound of thin uncooked pasta, or about a quarter-cup broken-up vermicelli or spaghetti. (Ereneta says orzo is the pasta shape that is most like Rice-A-Roni's pasta.)
  • 1 cup of the rice of your choice - organic long grain, wild, whatever. I think the longer grains do a better job of duplicating the Rice-A-Roni® attitude -- as opposed to, say, arborio.
  • 1-2 tablespoons (to taste) chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, or 1-2 teaspoons dried parsley (and may God have mercy on your soul)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or another broth of your choice)
  • Paula Deen also advocates the use of one chopped small yellow onion. However, I don't hold with such things.
  • Rachael Ray, for that matter, uses 2 ounces (or a quarter-cup) of slivered almonds. While I recognize this crunch as a standard part of the Rice-A-Roni of my youth, I didn't like it. You may do as you wish... unless you're inviting me to dinner!

The Process:

This is really a way of tastifying rice. The only major departure from another kind of seasoned rice dish is the traumatic, sharp, scary, skin-piercing Breaking of the Pasta.

The only way I can do this safely is to take it one noodle at a time, although it does occur to me as I write this that I could just wrap the dry pasta in a clean towel and snap to my heart's content. Rachael Ray, however, has a brilliant solution which merely takes some long-term planning: Save the broken ends of your pasta from each box. There are always those little shards that get snapped off at different odd lengths here and there; she likes to keep a jar of them and use all those odds and ends in a dish like this.

However you manage it, once your butter and oil have heated up enough to melt together, you should take all those nice snappy pasta pieces and place them in that pan. If you are using slivered almonds, put them in too. You're just toasting them; stir it all until the noodles and/or nuts begin to turn golden brown.

Once they're toast, add your rice of choice, parsley, and in fact everything else, even any onion you feel moved to include. This means the broth too, although I suspect toasting the rice ever so slightly would be a tasty experiment. Don't try it right now, if it doesn't work you'll think my recipe sucks.

Stir it all together. Let the broth come to a rolling boil, give it another stir, and then turn the heat down, cover it, and walk away.

The best way I've found to cook rice, by the way, is to fold a kitchen or hand towel to slightly more than a pot-lid sort of size and place it between the lid and the pot. Make sure the edges aren't too close to the burner (that's what folding it is for!). Make sure there aren't any towel-less gaps around the edge of the lid, or steam will escape through them and warp the edge of the pot. The towel will absorb the steam and give you drier, fluffier rice.

Let it cook for about 18-20 minutes, until the rice is tender. Rice has this fascinating habit of developing lots of holes when it's done - not in the grains, but the way they're spaced... never mind, just look at the rice and taste it if you have to. Now isn't that tasty? Fluff with a fork and serve.

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