Mar 23, 2010

Barley risotto with asparagus and mushrooms

I love risotto, but I feel like a big starchy blob after eating it.  But by making it with barley instead of rice, I can have my risotto and eat it too. Barley is a great source of soluble fiber, which can lower LDL cholesterol.  So this really is comfort food you can feel comfortable with.

This vegan version is like springtime in a bowl, thanks to asparagus, mushrooms and – added just before serving – gremolata.  (Gremolata, generally a mixture of parsley, raw garlic and lemon zest, is a frequent secret weapon in my cooking.)

The addition of some peas during the last few minutes of cooking would be a nice variation here. And of course, if you’re not a vegan, or not cursed with high cholesterol like I am, some grated parmigiano reggiano would be delicious.

Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Mushrooms

1 lb. thickish asparagus, tough ends snapped off

2 teaspoons + 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 shallots, finely minced (I recommend pulsing in a food processor)

8 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, sliced

3 ounces shiitake or maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 cups  pearled barley

1/2 cups dry white wine

6 cups vegetable broth, more if needed (use a gluten-free variety if you are gluten-sensitive)

1/2 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Grated zest of one lemon

2 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 450.  Toss the asparagus with 2 t. oil and roast on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes, or until crisp-tender. When cool, cut diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat the remaining oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven.  Add the shallots and saute for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the barley and cook for one minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is evaporated. Continue to add the broth in half-cup increments, stirring nearly constantly until each addition evaporates. Continue until the barley is tender but chewy, about 40 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  (You will not need salt if you used a commercial broth.)  Add the asparagus. Combine the parsley, basil, lemon zest and garlic, and add to risotto just before serving.

See more recipes: Entrees, Vegan


  • Jacqueline

    Hi Cathy, I’m a friend of Elizabeth M. I love your blog! I haven’t tried the barley risotto yet, but I did take your suggestion of oven-roasting asparagus and it was delicious. You can get the perfect “tender-crispness,” and it’s just the thing for that thicker asparagus that can be too tough and bitter prepared otherwise. Thank you!

  • Cathy,
    I love your barley risotto recipe–genius! I’ve been looking for a good barley recipe, and I think this is it! The roasted asparagus sounds divine.

  • Lily

    hi cathy:
    this sounds excellent and easy (my main requirement for a recipe).
    question, how many does it serve?
    i tend to make an entire recipe and freeze leftovers–even risotto.
    it’s all about portion control baby.

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Thanks, Lily. Sorry I didn’t put the yield on the recipe. I’ve started doing that more as my blog has gone on. Just from memory, I think it serves four fairly generously. Let me know what you think if you make it!

  • Lily

    i am definitely making it. i just need to buy some more broth :)

  • […] than a traditional risotto. I found this recipe via, but the original comes from the blog What Would Cathy Eat ?. As any and all bloggers and home cooks do, I improvised a little […]

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