A lighter version of the Italian classic, made complete with summer’s star ingredients.
By Jessica Smith
Here’s the thing about barley risotto. I feel certain I could convince you to make this just because everything about it screams, “eat me – it’s almost bathing suit season”. Whole grains, summer produce, a splash of white wine, some Parmigiano-Reggiano. What’s not to like?
But there’s another, more important case to be made for cooking barley risotto. It’s incredibly good. Barley cooks down into a rich, creamy, satisfying bowl of goodness. While it is not quite as creamy as a traditional risotto, the barley in this risotto retains a slightly chewy bite, giving it that “al dente” quality that is so lovely in pasta.
We never eat things twice in one week in our house. (I have sort of a “so many recipes, so litle time” thing happening here). But this risotto…I made it twice in one week.
Summer Barley Risotto With Sweet Corn, Roasted Tomato, and Basil
A lighter version of a classic risotto with a few of summer’s best ingredients.
- Author: Jessica Smith
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- 1 pint (300 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 6 cups (1,400 ml) low-sodium vegetable stock
- 1 onion, finely chopped (should measure around 3/4 cup)
- 1 and 1/2 cups (300 g) pearled barley
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- kernels cut from 2 ears of sweet corn (un-cooked)
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
- 10 sweet basil leaves, thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 C.). Toss the tomatoes in 1 Tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread the tomatoes out on a baking sheet and roast, stirring to prevent burning, until slightly shriveled and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
- While the tomatoes roast, pour the stock into a medium pot and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
- In a large skillet, with deep sides, heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the barley, stirring until all of the grains are evenly coated in olive oil. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is nearly all absorbed. Add 1 cup of the warm stock to the pan, and continue stirring, until the stock is nearly all absorbed. Continue cooking the barley this way, adding the stock a bit at a time and stirring frequently, until the barley is tender enough to eat but still has a slight chew, about 50 minutes. Add the sweet corn and continue cooking for a couple minutes, just until the corn is heated through.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and gently stir in the butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, basil, and roasted tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately, with extra grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the top.
The finished risotto should be creamy but not soupy and the cooked barley should have an “al dente” quality – tender but with a slight chew to it. The amount of liquid needed may vary slightly. If you run out of stock while the barley is still cooking, simply keep adding hot water until the barley is cooked through.
Jessica Smith is a native of the American Midwest, currently living in Thailand where she writes about food and travel throughout Southeast Asia. Jessica believes that the best way to understand a place is through its local cuisine.