Barley Risotto

Some of the ingredients for barley risotto - pearl barley, zucchini, and a beautiful rose (for drinking)!

Barley risotto is prepared in the same fashion as risotto made with arborio rice or any one of the numerous short grain rices found in Italy (e.g., carnaroli).  Barley is slightly more crunchy than arborio or carnaroli short grain rice (yet just as creamy though more nutty in flavor) and requires a longer cooking time.  Barley is a whole grain and is high in fiber and protein and you can find both “pearled” and “dehulled” barley in most good markets (the former variant closely resembles rice but is a bit larger and a darker shade of brown).

In parts of northern Italy, barley (referred to as orzo) is used in vegetable soups and as a primo piatto, or first course, as a substitute for pasta or rice.  Our version of barley risotto includes sauteed zucchini but you can just as easily substitute any variety of mushroom or firm flesh vegetable.

Cooking down zucchini for barley risotto
Barley Risotto
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 cups barley
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4-5 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup grated Grana Padano
  • Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher Salt
  • 10-12 ounces of fresh spinach
  • 6 to 8 cups of fresh filtered water or homemade chicken/vegetable/beef stock)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped finely
  • 1-2 medium sized zucchini, cubed into ½ inch pieces
  1. Wash the zucchini well and cut into ½ - 1 inch cubed pieces and saute over medium heat (with a bit of olive oil and Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper). Remove to a bowl after 10-15 minutes. In the same pot, add a bit more olive oil, onions, Kosher salt/freshly ground black pepper - setting the heat to medium.. Cook down the onions until soft and then add the barley. Toast the barley for 5-10 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir the ingredients well (you want to make sure the alcohol has had a chance to evaporate out of the liquid).
  2. Next, ladle in 2 cups of hot water/stock or enough liquid to cover the barley completely. Continue to ladle in more water/stock to cover the barley and stir frequently and when the liquid is almost completely absorbed ladle in another cup or water/stock. Repeat the process until the barley has an al dente consistency.
  3. Taste the mixture and adjust for salt and pepper. When the rice is creamy and has a consistency of slightly over al dente add the zucchini, butter, and about ½ cup of grated cheese. Stir well and serve as a starter or main dish.
Thanks to dining4two for the beautiful photo of barley risotto (note: the photo above includes mushrooms)


  1. I love the nutty flavor and chewy texture of barley. I’d try this any time.

  2. Hi Vincent,
    Do you think I could make this with “Farro”?? I so love Farro!

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