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.
- 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 ¾ cup)
- 1 and ½ cups (300 g) pearled barley
- ½ cup dry white wine
- kernels cut from 2 ears of sweet corn (un-cooked)
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ 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.
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.