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!

Published by

DJones BranchingOut

Pushing 50 and it's time to try a few (maybe... 365?) new things. This blog is not about reinventing oneself or one's life, but about how much fun one can have while going out on a limb and branching out. Kicking anxiety's butt one day at a time, yeah!

13 thoughts on “America’s Test Kitchen Rice and Pasta Pilaf -or- Home Made Rice-A-Roni!”

  1. This recipe was fantastic!!! The instructions were so helpful and well thought out. I had forgotten about pilafs but way back when, we used to add apricots, raisins and roasted almonds. That’s what I did last night and it was a great addition. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ann! I’ve used Anthony’s brand “cut fideos” that I have found in most Southern California grocery stores and Mexican markets. I would think that broken up pieces of the skinniest kind of spaghetti would work, the vermicelli or spaghettini… Here’s a link: to the Anthony’s brand:
      Hope this helps! I have made this recipe several times now and really like it. If you have the time and if cooking is your bag, NOTHING beats making an old standby like this with your own simple ingredients!


    2. I, too, could not find vermicelli. I opted for Barilla Fideo (cut spaghetti). THANK YOU to the original poster of the recipe because ATK did NOT mention the quantity of rice. 🙂 This was my first visit to this site and I will be back.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad you were able to find what you needed here! I’m going to start the blog up again soon, I had so much fun writing about and sharing something new and different every day in 2015 that I want to do it all over again in 2017!


    1. Wow, I’m glad you asked this question! It seems that when I changed the look of the blog that now some of the text has become covered up by photos- oh no! If you are viewing this post on a mobile device, the “1” of the “1 1/2” cups is obscured. Bummer. I am super-grateful that you were able to bring this to my attention!


  2. Question, we always added frozen veggies and cooked meat to Rice a Roni as a kid. What do you think about that? Would you brown the meat and veggies for final ten minute cook time? I also wonder if browning the vermicelli in the fat from the cooked meat would add flavor. Thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just read that you added chicken and pineapple. So, when did you add them and would you use rendered fat? Also, how much parsley (fresh or dried?) Was in original recipe?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, it was the mom of the kid I was babysitting that made this recipe, and that was probably over 35 years ago… I don’t know about you, but food always makes a powerful impact in my memory and even though it was (*GASP*) more than three decades ago, I think I remember her browning the chicken first, taking it out, then adding a little butter to the pan to augment the drippings to continue on with the directions for the box of Rice-a-Roni. Then she just added chunks of pinapple when the rice was finished and added the meat back to the pan full of everything to warm the whole thing up. Yum!
        About the America’s Test Kitchen recipe… I gave my magazines away to someone in my family so I can’t say, but I’d bet it was something like 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried parsley… or maybe 1-2 teaspoons fresh. Dried parsley is usually good to add to the end of browning the rice and vermicelli and fresh is good adding half with the water to cook the rice and half over the top at the end.
        What do you think? I’d like to know!


    2. I think that adding any vegetables to Rice-a-Roni would be a great idea, any of the frozen mixed blends… peas and carrots? Stir fry blends? Sounds delicious! What did your family add?
      And yes, If I were to add meat first, I’d take the browned meat out of the pan, then brown that vermicelli and rice blend in the rendered fat from the meat. Mmm… now I want to make this concoction!


  3. We love to have Rice a Roni as a side dish at dinner. We just put the pan with the left overs in the frig. Next morning, we pull it out of the frig, put it back on the stove to heat, add frozen veggies, crack a couple eggs into the pan, mix it all together and call it breakfast.

    Liked by 1 person

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