Barley Risotto with Asparagus Epicurious - Barley Risotto With Asparagus And Hazelnuts

Barley Risotto With Asparagus And Hazelnuts

Barley Risotto with Asparagus Epicurious 300x277 - Barley Risotto With Asparagus And Hazelnuts


Barley is an inexpensive, nutritious whole grain. It makes for a nice twist on the classic rice-based dish.


Barley is a cereal grain that people can use in bread, beverages, stews, and other dishes. As a whole grain, barley provides fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These offer various health benefits.


Stores usually sell barley in two forms: hulled and pearled. Hulled barley undergoes minimal processing to remove only the inedible outer shell, leaving the bran and germ intact. Pearled barley has neither the hull nor the bran.


It is important to note that barley will usually expand to three and a half times its volume when cooked. Typically, a person will eat half a cup of cooked barley weighing around 78.5 g


Nutrient Hulled barley Pearl barley Recommended adult intake
Energy (calories) 354 352 1,800–2400
Protein (g) 12.5 9.9 46–56
Fat (g) 2.3 1.2 20–35
Carbohydrate (g) 73.5 77.7 45–65
Fiber (g) 17.3 15.6 22.4–33.6
Calcium (mg) 33 29 1,000–1,200
Iron (mg) 3.6 2.5 8–18
Magnesium (mg) 133 79 320–420
Phosphorus (mg) 264 221 700
Potassium (mg) 452 280 4,700
Sodium (mg) 12 9 2,300
Manganese (mg) 1.9 1.32 1.8–2.3
Selenium (mcg) 37.7 37.7 55
Folate (mcg) 19 23 400

How to cook barley

As a regular grain, cooking barley is a little different than rice for example:

  1. Combine the barley and water: Combine the barley and water in the saucepan. Add a generous pinch of salt if desired.
  2. Bring to a boil: Bring the water and barley to a boil over high heat. Keep an eye on the pot as barley will give off a lot of foam at first and can cause the pot to boil over.
  3. Simmer the barley: When the barley has reached a boil, lower the heat to a low simmer, cover, and continue to cook until the barley is done. For pearl barley, start checking at 25 minutes. For hulled barley, start checking at 40 minutes. The barley is done when it has tripled in volume and is soft yet chewy. Add more water if the pan becomes dry before the barley has finished cooking; check every 5 minutes until desired chewiness is reached.
  4. Drain the barley (if necessary): When the barley is done, it will have absorbed most of the water. If there is a little water still left in the pot, just leave the barley to sit for 10 minutes, covered, until it has all been absorbed. If there is a lot of water left, drain the barley in a strainer over the sink.
  5. Fluff the barley: With a fork, fluff the barley to separate the grains. Enjoy

Asparagus nutrition

Asparagus, officially known as Asparagus officinalis, is a member of the lily family. This popular vegetable comes in a variety of colors, including green, white and purple. It’s used in dishes around the world, including frittatas, pasta, as a side dish, in omelets, soups and more.


Asparagus is also low in calories and packed with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s a good source of vitamin C, K1, folate, and has beta-carotene. It also has antioxidants, different compounds than the usually praised vitamins C and E. Like cacao and cocoa, asparagus is rich in flavonoids, as well as, polyphenols such as quercetin, isorhamnetin, and kaempferol.


The hazelnut, also known as the filbert, is a type of nut that comes from the Corylus tree. It is mostly cultivated in Turkey, Italy, Spain and the United States. Hazelnuts have a sweet flavor and can be eaten raw, roasted or ground into a paste.


Like other nuts, hazelnuts are rich in nutrients and have a high content of protein, fiber, fats, vitamins, and minerals such as vitamin E, vitamin B1 (thiamin), magnesium, copper, and manganese.


Hazelnuts are healthy because they’re loaded with antioxidants, are good for heart and cardiovascular health, may lower the risk for cancer, reduce inflammation, and balance blood sugar given their fat content.  Getting more in your diet is a good idea!

Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Hazelnuts

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword fiber, grains, rice, risotto
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 1/2 pounds medium asparagus trimmed
  • 5 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1 ounce finely grated Parmiagiano  about 1/2 cup plus additional for serving
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted and coarsely chopped


  1. Cut top third of each asparagus stalk diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices, reserving tips and slices together, then coarsely chop remainder. Bring water (5 1/2 cups) and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, then add chopped asparagus and cook, uncovered, until very tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a food processor (not a blender, which would require adding liquid).
  2. Add reserved asparagus tips and slices to boiling water and cook, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to a sieve, reserving cooking liquid in pan, and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain well and reserve in another bowl.
  3. Measure cooking liquid and, if necessary, add enough water to bring total to 4 cups, then reserve.
  4. Cook onion with pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add barley and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  5. Add wine and boil, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.
  6. Add 4 cups reserved asparagus-cooking liquid and bring to a boil, covered, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until barley is tender (it should be chewy) and mixture is thickened to a stewlike consistency, 35 to 40 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, mince garlic and mash to a paste with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt using side of a large heavy knife, then add to asparagus in the food processor along with zest and purée until smooth.

  8. When barley is cooked, stir in asparagus purée, asparagus-tip mixture, and enough additional water to thin to desired consistency and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until hot, about 1 minute. Stir in cheese, then season with salt and pepper. Serve with hazelnuts and additional cheese on the side.

Recipe Notes


  1. Barley can be cooked in about half the time in a 6- to 8-quart pressure cooker. Follow recipe, cooking onion in pressure cooker, uncovered, then adding barley and wine as directed above.
  2. After adding asparagus-cooking liquid, seal pressure cooker with lid and cook at high pressure, according to manufacturer's instructions, 18 minutes. Put pressure cooker in sink (do not remove lid) and run cold water over lid until pressure goes down completely.
  3. Remove lid and continue with recipe, using pressure cooker (without lid) as a pot. Asparagus can be cut and cooked, chopped stalks puréed, and cooking water reserved 1 day ahead, then chilled in separate airtight containers.

Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, mental health.  Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Photo credit: Epicurious

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