Marsala Barley “Risotto” with Porcini and Peas



A few years back, my (not-yet) husband asked what we were eating for dinner and I told him we were having one of my favorite soups – beef barley.  He gave me a funny look and repeated, “barley?  I thought only horses ate barley.”  Little did he know that barley was about to become a staple in his diet.

I love barley. It’s so nutty and flavorful, and just the perfect texture in my opinion–chewy, but with a little bite to it. At first, I used it primarily for things like soups and stews, but then I started using it as a replacement for other grains we’d eat, like rice. I always have it in the cabinet, and am frequently making it as a side or adding it to one thing or another.

I also love mushrooms…which you’ve probably gathered since I like to include them in as many meals as I possibly can.  I had forgotten about some leftover dried porcinis in my cabinet, so I decided to go ahead and make a barley risotto with them. The two ingredients together are just so nutty and earthy. 

By the way, did you know this is actually called orzotto? I  made “risotto” with orzo a while back and named it orzotto (lamely) in Rachael Ray-like fashion. It turns out this dish is, in fact, actually orzotto.

Barley takes a little while longer to cook than arborio rice, so instead of adding a ladle of liquid at a time, I add closer to two. Risotto is extremely easy to make, but it can take a little time and it’s not the kind of thing you can just leave on the stove and forget about. You need to be there watching over it, stirring, adding liquid when necessary. When finished, risotto (regardless of using barley or rice) should still have a little bite in the center, and it should be a little loose. You aren’t looking for something that looks like steamed rice.

This was comforting and delicious, and a fabulous vegetarian dish, too.


Marsala Orzotto with Porcini Mushrooms and Peas

Serves 2-3 as a side (you will probably want to 1.5x the recipe for 2 full meals)
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1.5 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. butter
1 large shallot or half a small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. fresh chopped rosemary
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/3 cup marsala wine
2-3 cups vegetable or chicken broth, kept warm on the stove
1/4 cup peas (I use frozen)
1/4 cup grated romano (or parmesan) cheese

Add 1.25 cups boiling water to the mushrooms and allow them to reconstitute for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and add the oil and butter until melted together. Stir in the shallot and garlic, and cook until tender.

Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and add the soaking liquid to the broth. Coarsely chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan along with the barley and rosemary. Stir a few times until the barley turns a little golden. Add the marsala and cook until almost completely evaporated. Turn the heat to medium-low.

Add about 1 cup of the stock/soaking mixture to the barley and cook, stirring frequently, until it’s almost completely absorbed. Add more stock and continue this step until the barley is tender and chewy, but still a little firm in the center. You should still have some liquid in the pan–you don’t want it to be ALL absorbed. Stir in the peas and heat through. Off the heat, stir in the romano cheese and season to taste if necessary.  Plate and top with additional romano shavings, if desired.

Marsala Barley “Risotto” with Porcini and Peas

16 thoughts on “Marsala Barley “Risotto” with Porcini and Peas

  1. I have yet to cook with barley, but I really want to try it. This looks like a great starter recipe!

  2. Barley has not had a home in my kitchen — for no good reason! This looks absolutely delicious and will make me put barley on my shopping list.

  3. Ooo this looks delicious! I have yet to make a risotto-like dish with something other than arborio but this really looks tasty. I think I’m going to have to give this a try!

    1. Hi Hillary. I can never find them fresh, but my grocery store and Whole Foods usually have them dried. I usually see them hanging right above the fresh mushrooms, or on a shelf near the produce. Hopefully you can find them! If not you could always just use creminis or a mix of wild mushrooms.

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