America’s Test Kitchen Rice and Pasta Pilaf -or- Home Made Rice-A-Roni!

I grew up eating a healthy mix of home cooking and pre-made junk. Dinner could be Packet of Spaghetti Seasonings + ground beef = Spaghetti Sauce… or maybe fried chicken from scratch. Casserole with Cream O’ Something Soup was just as likely to be on the table as a completely homemade soup- homemade right down to the broth… yum! My mom, grandmother, and later, mom-in-law all had great dishes to pass on. I love to cook and feel indebted to them for sharing.

Once while babysitting, the mom of the house had me finish cooking her son’s favorite dish they called “Hawaiian Chicken and Rice.” It was simply browned boneless chicken breast and pineapple chunks added to chicken flavored Rice-A-Roni. It was great! The kid and I polished the entire dinner and I soon started making it for myself at home. I haven’t thought of that boxed side dish since those baby sitting days, but this weekend I saw America’s Test Kitchen crew prepare their own version and I had to try it…

Click here for the original recipe for America’s Test Kitchen’s Rice and Pasta Pilaf (Homemade Rice-A-Roni!) 

Here’s how I made it- the only change made was using salted butter… and skipping the parsley. Enjoy my notes on and mistakes during  the cooking process:



Home Made Rice-A-Roni

  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 oz vermicelli, broken
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoons salt

1- Place rice in a large bowl and rinse a few times to remove excess starch. Fill bowl with hot water an inch or two above the level of the rice and let it sit for about 15 minutes. I think my water wasn’t hot enough- on the TV show, it was steaming hot. This part helps to par cook the rice, and if the water isn’t hot enough, expect a longer cook time in the end…

brown the vermicelli
brown the vermicelli

2- In a heavy pot, brown the pasta in the butter over medium heat for about three minutes. Watch out- it will turn from light to browned very quickly… in about as much time it takes to snap a picture of it for you blog, for instance, it can go from blond to over browned. Yep.

saute onion and garlic, too
sauté onion and garlic, too…

3- Add grated onion, salt, and garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until clear. Add rice, sauté until clear, another 3-4 minutes. If you thought the pasta smelled great while it browned in the butter, this will smell even better.

...and chicken broth.
…add chicken broth.

4- Add chicken broth, bring to a boil, turn to low and cover for 10 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Mine took more like 20 minutes (water wasn’t hot enough to par cook the rice in step one, I think).

towel over pot
towel over pot

5- Let your pilaf finish by resting with a towel between the lid and the pot. Fluff up and serve! I’ve never done this extra step before, with the towel, but I really think it did help keep the pilaf fluffy.

So, how easy was this? About as easy as the original boxed recipe, really. Except for grating the onion… I’ve never grated onion before, and some of my knuckle got into the dish, I think. Ouch. Overall though, it was a pretty tasty side dish!

And most importantly, better than the boxed mix.

Voilà! Pilaf!
Voilà! Pilaf!