Orzotto, made with pearl barley, is common in Trentino Alto Adige, a region in the North of Italy. It’s especially creamy, while at the same time preserving the unique chewy texture and nutty taste of the grain. It’s therefore perfect for earthy, rustic add-ins, such as mushrooms, roasted squash, or radicchio.
When you’re making an orzotto, follow the same steps as in a classic risotto: Sauté the aromatics, toast the barley, pour in the wine, slowly cook it with hot stock, and finish it with butter and cheese.
- 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
- 1/3 cup butter, divided
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups hot mushroom stock, or slightly salted hot water
- 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Two hours before making the risotto, collect the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover them with hot water. Soak for about two hours.
Add half of the butter into a pan, followed by the minced onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt (the salt will help you cook down the onion without burning it). Sauté the onion in the butter over low heat until it becomes translucent and soft; just a few minutes will be enough.
Squeeze the porcini mushrooms to remove all the water, chop them, and add them to the onion. Cook for a few minutes.
Add the barley and use a wooden spoon to stir it into the sautéed onion and mushrooms. Turn the heat to medium-low and let the barley toast, constantly stirring; a few minutes will be enough.
Pour the white wine over the barley and cook, stirring with the wooden spoon, until all of it has cooked off or been absorbed by the barley.
Now, pour in the hot stock in four separate additions, stirring very often and waiting for each addition to be completely absorbed or evaporated before adding the next. This whole process will take about 30 minutes. Remember to taste the orzotto every now and then, as you might not need all of the stock. The orzotto is ready when the barley feels soft, but still with a hard soul inside, slightly al dente.
When you have finished pouring in the stock—or maybe you’ll have just a tiny bit left—and the barley is cooked but still al dente, remove the orzotto from the heat. Add the remaining butter and the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and stir well. Taste it one last time to see if it still needs a little salt.
Top the orzotto with the finely chopped parsley and serve immediately.