Pea Barley Risotto, a delicious and nutritious take on the classic risotto, this simple dish combines seasonal fresh sweet peas and pearl barley. Like a risotto, I like to finish it with butter and Parmigiano. Omit both for a completely vegan meal.
Song of the day: Brighter Than The Sun by Colbie Caillat
Every year I eagerly wait for the first sweet peas to appear at our local Farmers markets. And then, we start feasting on them, utilizing them in many delicious recipes. This summer there is a dish that keeps gracing our table. It is incredibly simple, very fulfilling, and so delectable: Pea Barley Risotto.
Sweet peas, English peas, or garden peas, generally refer to the same thing and are the round, small, variety commonly found in packages of frozen peas or tin cans in the grocery store. They grow in pods and before consuming them, they are shelled and the pods discarded. The peas are starchy and sweet and can be used in a variety of dishes, from raw to cooked.
Peas, I just love them!
Since I was a kid, I loved peas. Everybody in my family knew about my preference. My grandma, especially, made sure she cooked some for me whenever I was over at her place. When she didn’t have fresh peas available, she used the little frozen ones or the ones in a glass jar, better for her than peas in a metal tin.
Pea dishes from my childhood
My grandma would make for me a delicious tomato sauce with peas, my personal vegetarian ragu; then, her famous stewed peas and onions, a very simple side dish everybody loved; and pea risotto, with lots of grated Parmigiano on top. My aunt would make squid stuffed with peas, so good, and at my parents, I would delight in pasta funghi e piselli (mushroom and pea pasta), one of my favorites.
Pea Barley Risotto
Pea Barley Risotto is a play on the traditional Italian risotto. I had fun trying to find a name for it and came up with Pea Barlotto or Barley Peasotto. Another possibility could be to use the Italian word “Orzotto” Orzo + Risotto (Barley is Orzo, in Italian).
Instead of using Arborio or Carnaroli rice, in Pea Barley Risotto you use pearl barley, although the procedure remains the same as when you’re making risotto. Thus, you would need:
- fresh peas, shelled
- pearl barley
- vegetable broth
- evo oil
- green onion
- salt and pepper
- white wine
- butter and Parmigiano are a must when finishing a risotto, but of course, they can be omitted to keep the dish completely vegan.
Barley is a grain with a nutty flavor. Its texture stays al dente while being a little chewy. Pearl barley is not a whole grain because the fiber-containing bran has been removed with the hulls, though pearl barley is still a good source of nutrients and contains important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Pearl barley takes less time to cook than hulled barley. It is softer and releases starch into its cooking liquid, making it perfect to be made risotto-style, resulting in a creamy, chewy dish. When you add vegetable stock to the barley grains, they plump up, in fact, the grains double in size when cooked, but they still keep their texture.
I absolutely love the al dente texture of the peas and barley and that exuberant nuttiness of this grain pairs well with the sweet starchiness of the peas. However, no risotto or “Pea Barlotto” is finished without the rich flavor of the butter, the acidity of the Parmigiano, and that bite from some freshly cracked pepper!
This Pea Barley Risotto is a beautiful dish to serve during this plentiful veggie season. Its texture and bright flavor will wow anyone who is sharing a lunch or dinner table with you. Give it a try!
Song of the day: Brighter Than The Sun by Colbie CaillatPrint
Pea Barley Risotto, a take on risotto, this dish combines fresh sweet peas and pearl barley. Finish it with butter and Parmigiano, like a classic risotto, or omit both to keep it vegan.
- 1 cup sweet peas, shelled
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, whole, smashed
- 2 Tbsp evo oil
- salt & pepper
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup white wine
- Cook peas in a pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain under cold water. Set aside.
- Prepare the vegetable broth in a medium/large pot and keep warm over low heat.
- Heat 2 tablespoons evo oil in a saucepan (I like to use a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add barley and salt. Stir to coat with the onion/garlic mixture for 1-2 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Add wine and cook, stirring, until evaporated.
- Add 1 cup of broth and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes or until almost all absorbed.
- Continue cooking for about 20 minutes, adding 1/2 cup warm broth at a time, stirring, waiting to add more until the liquid is nearly absorbed after each addition.
- At about 15-minute cooking time add the peas, adjust with salt, stir, and continue to cook for about 5 minutes or until barley is tender but still al dente.
- Turn off heat, add 1 Tbsp butter and a handful of Parmigiano (optional). Stir and let rest for a couple of minutes before serving.
- Serve with some freshly cracked pepper on top.
Use olive oil instead of butter, and skip the Parmigiano to make this recipe a vegan dish.
Pearl barley cooks in about 30 minutes and stays al dente.