Basic Barley Risotto

Risotto is sensational. Rice or barley that is sauteed in butter, with other ingredients added to make it, for example, Seafood, Mushroom, or Chicken Risotto. It has a kinship to pilafs, so one might also use bulgur as an alternative. But if you use rice or bulgur, soak for just 20-30 minutes. This soaking step reduces cooking time and the amount of necessary oil or butter used, as well. Variations are limited only by
the imagination.

Risotto is usually on the caloric side, but the soaking step, I have discovered, is a way to lessen the problem and still have an exceptionally delicious, easy main dish. Barley is more nutritious than rice and is said to be good for your heart. (Serve with salad and a good french or multi-grain bread. A dry white wine or good Gewurztraminer would go well here, as would hearty beer.)

- Jerry Weinberg

Basic Barley Risotto

Print Rate
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Five Spice, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 servings


  • cups pearl barley
  • 6-8 cups stock (chicken, veggie, seafood – see note)
  • 6 Tablespoons butter (or olive oil, or combo)
  • 1 onion (medium, ¼" square chopped)
  • 10 lengths spaghetti (or linguini – broken into 1" pieces)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 2 Tablespoons basil (chopped – and/or Italian parsley)


  • Soak barley with enough stock to cover, plus about 1 inch more. Let sit, refrigerated in warm weather, for two or three hours. Drain well.
  • Melt about three tablespoons oil and butter. Heat at medium low,add onion, and cook till translucent, not browned. Spread in barley and pasta, stirring frequently so as to lightly brown them.
  • Meantime, bring remaining stock to boil and reduce heat to low to keep hot. When barley is nicely golden, add the cup of wine and cook, stirring,till the wine has almost evaporated. Then add about one-half cup of hot stock, stirring and cooking until stock is almost completely evaporated.Add another half cup stock, and continue doing this until the barley is just tender–not quite to the al dente state, though if you prefer al dente, that's fine. (You may have stock left over.)
  • Add one or two Tbs. of remaining butter (not oil), plus 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese, and chopped basil or parsley. Stir through till butter is melted, dust with a little more basil or parsley, and serve from skillet, offering extra cheese at table.


If you wish you may add a) vegetables, b) mushrooms, c) minced
chicken, d) seafood, chunks or pureed in a little stock, or some
combination of these, plus perhaps some good oil-cured pitted black
olives or rinsed capers, if you are fond of them. Add them at just about
the time that the risotto is in its final state, leaving sufficient time
for ingredients to heat through.

You may soak the barley the day before, then seal in an air-tight
container till cooking. Or you may freeze it in this container,+ defrost
and then cook.

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