Barley risotto with asparagus and mushrooms

A vegetarian-, or vegan-, friendly risotto to shake you out of a starch-induced hibernation

By Cathy Elton
Published March 29, 2011 12:30AM (EDT)

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 cursed with high cholesterol like I am, some grated parmigiano reggiano would be delicious.

See more of my heart-healthy recipes on my blog, What Would Cathy Eat?

Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Mushrooms


  • 1 pound thickish asparagus, tough ends snapped off
  • 2 teaspoons plus 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 ½ cups pearled barley
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups vegetable broth, more if needed (use a gluten-free variety if you are gluten-sensitive)
  • ½ cup 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


  1. Preheat oven to 450. Toss the asparagus with 2 teaspoons oil and roast on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes, or until crisp-tender. When cool, cut diagonally into ½-inch pieces.
  2. Heat the remaining oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven.
  3. Add the shallots and sauté 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (You will not need salt if you used a commercial broth.)
  6. Add the asparagus. Combine the parsley, basil, lemon zest and garlic, and add to risotto just before serving.

Cathy Elton

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