The Culinary Traveler: Rice and Vermicelli Pilaf

Sunday July 29, 2012

RiceARoni-the San Francisco Treat-words by Charles Foll; melody based upon the 1923 song "Barney Google" by Billy Rose and Con Conrad

The combination of rice and thin pasta in a pilaf has pure Middle Eastern roots. It also happens to be the prototype for the commercial RiceARoni mix, a supermarket familiar.  Want to make it from scratch (to cut down on the sodium but not lose the great flavor)?   The secret is not to use too much pasta, just crumble some ultra-thin angel hair, vermicelli, or one little perfect nest of dried pasta called a fideo.

My friend, graphic designer Cindy Lee, still uses RiceARoni in a pinch, a recipe she learned from her mother.  “Well, you will laugh,” said Cindy when I asked her how she makes it.  “You basically use either the family box or the regular box of RiceARoni, dump the rice into the rice bowl cooker, and do not use the flavoring packet at all.  Then, as my mom always taught me, add enough water up to your thumb knuckle; it should be about 1/2-inch of water above the rice.”

But here it is from scratch for the rice cooker. Oh so simple. Oh so good. It will have you singing the jingle after the first bite. Makes great fried rice when it is day old as well.


Machine:  Medium (6 cup) rice cooker

Yield:  Serves 4


  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or bacon drippings
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup vermicelli or 1 fideo, broken into 1 to 2 inch pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or beef stock (canned or homemade)
  • 1 teaspoon onion-flavored Mrs. Dash seasoning or onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
  • Few grinds of freshly ground black pepper


Turn on the rice cooker or set to the regular cycle.  Place butter and oil in the rice bowl.  When oil is hot, add the rice and pasta pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta turns golden brown, 10 minutes.

Add the stock, seasoning, salt, and pepper, to rice in cooker.  Stir just to combine, close the cover and let rice complete the regular cooking cycle.  The liquid will all be absorbed and the pasta tender.  Let steam on the Keep Warm cycle for 15 minutes.  Spoon into bowls to serve.

its a new cover for our 10th anniversary edition

Excerpted from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2002, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2012

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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