Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and White Beans

Pearl barley and cheese collide in this decidedly healthy spin on a classic Italian comfort food. I’m not sure whether or not Sal’s mama would approve, but the pearl barley adds a springy, snappy texture that I find delightful. Besides, as Ryan Andrews explains at length in this super informative article over at the Precision Nutrition site, whole grains are the way to go, dude!

This serves about four. (More likely two big people and two smaller people.)

PS: You can now use the “print this page” button (top right) to get a printer-friendly version of recipes. I’ve disabled photos, so it will only include text.

Gather Ye Your Ingredients:

6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock*
2.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup wine
1 cup pearl barley
1 cup beans, canned or precooked (I used canneloni beans. Navy beans would be great and red beans would work, too)
3 cups chopped kale
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons Brummel and Brown or butter-like product of your choice
Freshly ground pepper

*Low-sodium stock is recommended here not just for health benefits. Because this dish cooks for a long time and condenses starting with a full-salt stock will yield a super salty end result. If all you’ve got is regular stock, just dilute it a bit.


  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil (save the rest for the mushrooms). Add onion, shallot and thyme and cook over medium heat until the onion is softened (about 7 minutes).
  2. Add the barley and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine if using and cook, stirring until absorbed.
  3. Add 1 cup of the stock and cook, stirring, until nearly absorbed.
  4. Here’s where risotto gets annoying.  Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time until you’ve used it all. Each time you add the stock, wait until it cooks down before adding the next.
  5. While you’re dealing with the constant risotto absorption process, heat the remaining olive oil in a small skillet until shimmering and then add the sliced mushrooms. Cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes or until they are soft. I diced mine after cooking them but that was just a crazy hair. You can leave them slicey or get crazy dicey – your call.
  6. When you’re done with the last of the stock in your risotto, add the beans and let them cook for a minute.
  7. Add the kale and let it wilt. Cook for an additional minute or two.
  8. Add the mushrooms and stir.
  9. Stir in the 1/2 cup of cheese and the butter then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve! Make sure to provide more cheese at the table. Everyone loves cheese. For real.


  • This reheats quite well. I used a pan on the stove with a bit of olive oil, but I bet it wouldn’t do badly in a microwave.
  • Any hearty leafy green can be substituted for kale: try chard, spinach or escarole
  • Experiment with other ingredients – this is hearty peasant food. Use what you have!

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  1. [stomach growling]
    I am forwarding this to the Mexican, stat, so he can whip it up for dinner this weekend.

  2. Yay! When I’m back we should make The Mexican and The Sicilian team up and cook us dinner.
    Mwa ha ha ha.

  3. Best idea ever. Red wine, beware. Run for your life.

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