Barley Risotto with Zucchini, Peas, and Parsley


I love risotto! But I am trying to have the grains I consume be as whole as possible, so when I got the inspiration to create this recipe, I looked online to see what others were using as an arborio rice alternative. One choice that popped up was farro, which I discovered was an excellent pasta substitute when concocting my Pine Nut and Parsley Pesto with Grape Tomatoes and Italian Farro. Another was pearl barley, which was said to work well in risotto because of its ability to develop a creamy consistency. I decided to go with the latter because, honestly, I had a large bag of the stuff in my cupboard and had been wondering what to do with it! When I bought it, I didn’t realized that  the term pearled meant the barley had been refined (the outer hull removed and the grain polished, a process that removes some of the nutrients). According to information I found on The Whole Grains Council website, this means that pearl barley is not considered a whole grain, while barley called hulled barley generally is, because only the inedible hull of the barley is removed (with pearl barley, some of the nutritious bran is lost) with very minimal processing. But it doesn’t sound like hulled barley would work as well in a risotto because it’s said to not yield as creamy of a texture when cooked as pearl barley. So I’d stick with the pearl barley for this recipe. Here in A Cookable Feast Land, we are all about practical whole-eating-upgrades and small improvements being better than no improvements. And pearl barley is totally an improvement over rice!

-1 medium zucchini, sliced into wheels and then those wheels cut lengthwise into fourths

-1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. olive oil

-1 medium onion, chopped

-1 heaping tbs. minced garlic

-1 cup dried pearl barley

-4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

-1 cup frozen peas

1 tbs. diced flat-leaf parsley

-1 tbs. lemon juice

-1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

-Salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add chopped zucchini to a metal baking pan, drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, season lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic salt, and let roast for 15-20 minutes, until soft when you pierce with a fork. Cook peas according to package instructions.

To a large pot, add the tablespoon of olive oil, the chopped onion, and the minced garlic. Cook on medium heat for about four minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent. Then add the pearl barley and a half cup of the stock. Stir frequently, letting the barley absorb the liquid. About five minutes later, add another half cup of the stock, stir well, and let the barley absorb it; continue with this practice until all of the stock is absorbed and the barley is a nice creamy consistency (should take about 40 minutes total). Mix in the zucchini, peas, parsley, lemon juice, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Best served immediately; makes about four richly delicious servings.

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