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~Mel's Copycat Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat~

IMG_9879I believe I could live on Rice-a-Roni.  I suppose I'd get tired of it eventually, but, it could be worth the experiment simply to see how long it would take.  I love the stuff, and, it's one of the few convenience foods I indulge in.  As a kid, if I was feeling under the weather, I always preferred a dish of chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni over a bowl of Campbell's chicken noodle soup.  If that sounds odd, it's not, as the seasoning packet contains nothing more than dry chicken soup mix. As an adult, beef-favored and Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni have earned spots in my pantry too.

IMG_9814Rice-a-Roni -- "The San Francisco Treat!"

Italian born immigrant Domenico (Charlie) DeDomenico moved to California in 1895 to open a fresh produce store.  After becoming a successful businessman, he married Maria Ferrigno, an immigrant from Salerno, Italy, where her family owned a pasta factory.  In 1912, Maria persuaded Charlie to set up a similar business in the Mission District of San Francisco.  Gragnano Products, Inc., was born and began delivering pasta to Italian restaurants and stores throughout the area.

IMG_9880Maria and Charlie's sons, Paskey, Vince, Tom and Anthony worked in the family business, and, in 1934, Paskey changed the name to the Golden Grain Macaroni Company. Tom's wife Lois fell in love with a pilaf recipe she received from an Armenian immigrant, Mrs. Pailadzo Captanian, which she served at a family gathering.  After tasting the unique pilaf, which was made by sautéing a combination rice and pasta in butter before adding broth and seasonings, Vince went to work developing a new product.  In 1958, his creation, named Rice-a-Roni, was introduced to the Northwestern United States as "The San Francisco Treat".  Four years later, in 1962, it went nationwide.

Copycat chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni is super-easy to make, tastes the same or better, &, saves money at the checkout:

IMG_9816For the 6 1/2 total ounces (1 cup) of rice & pasta:

3 3/4 ounces long grain white rice (about 1/2 cup)*

2 3/4 ounces fideo, cut spaghetti  (about 1/2 cup)*

*Note:  Yes.  I really did sit around for two hours one afternoon separating the rice grains from the vermicelli pasta, from one box of Rice-a-Roni, to make sure the measurements are correct.

For the 1/2 total ounces (2 tablespoons) seasoning blend packet:

2  tablespoons Herb Ox granulated chicken bouillon (Note:  Contains salt, dehydrated parsley, dehydrated cooked chicken, onion powder, garlic powder, turmeric for color.)

1  teaspoon onion powder

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

For the sauté and simmer:

2-3  tablespoons salted butter, for sautéing the pasta and rice mixture (Note:  I use three. The box calls for two.  I never thought two was enough.  It isn't.)

2 1/2 cups water, for simmering the Copycat Rice-a-Roni

IMG_9826 IMG_9826 IMG_9826 IMG_9826 IMG_9826~Step 1.  In a wide-bottomed 3 1/2-quart chef's pan with straight, deep sides (or a 10" skillet with a tight-fitting lid), melt 3 tablespoons butter over low heat.  Add and stir in the 1/2 cup rice and 1/2 cup fideo.  Increase heat to medium- medium-high.  Using a large slotted spoon, stir constantly and sauté until rice and pasta are light golden, about 3-4 minutes.

IMG_9842 IMG_9842 IMG_9842 IMG_9842 IMG_9842~Step 2.  Slowly add the 2 1/2 cups water to the pan of sautéing rice and pasta -- lots of steam will billow up, so, be careful.  Add the seasonings: 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon, 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.  Give the mixture a thorough stir and wait for it to return to a simmer, 1-2 minutes.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer.

IMG_9858 IMG_9858 IMG_9858~ Step 3.  Cover the pan and simmer until rice and pasta are cooked through and have absorbed almost all of the liquid, about 14-16 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and rake through the mixture with a fork to fluff and separate the rice grains and pasta pieces.  Serve immediately.

Copycat chicken Rice-a-Roni -- "The San Francisco Treat!":

IMG_9875Mel's Copycat Rice-a-Roni, The San Francisco Treat:  Recipe yields 4 cups/4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List: 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides and lid; large slotted spoon or spatula; 2-cup measuring container; fork

IMG_9005Cook's Note: In my food world, three meals require a side of orange-and-cheddary creamy-dreamy macaroni-and-cheese:  meatloaf, fish sticks, and, chili dogs.  There's more.  If you're looking for the perfect side-dish to turn Buffalo chicken wings into dinner, set your sights on mac and cheese. When I was growing up, when we sat down to eat meatloaf, fish sticks or chili dogs, my mom indulged my brother and I in a side-serving of mac and cheese. Interestingly, she didn't buy the stuff in the blue box.  She refused.  She made her own copycat version of it on the stovetop.  It was fabulous -- it's also the same recipe I used to indulge my kids.  Try my ~ Better than Store-Bought Stovetop Mac & Cheese ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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