Roasted Pumpkin Barley Risotto

Roasted Pumpkin Barley Risotto is a delicious, savory way to use a fall favorite – pumpkin. This rustic, vegetarian risotto is dressed up with fresh herbs, and topped with sage pesto and a runny egg. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

Roasted Pumpkin Barley Risotto with a runny poached egg, sage pesto, and fresh herbs in a yellow ceramic bowl with copper flatware, fall leaves napkin, bowl of sage pesto, bowl of chopped herbs, and an orange and yellow pumpkin.

Oh how we love pumpkin season. You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin…. We anxiously anticipate it every year.

~ Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, October 2010

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Pumpkins and Recipe Inspiration

Autumn is just a synonym for pumpkin season, right? Pumpkin lattés, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and Roasted Pumpkin Barley Risotto… Hah! I think sweet pumpkin treats come to mind far more often than savory ones. Starbucks pumpkin latté and pumpkin pie anyone?

I must confess: I am not a big fan of all things pumpkin spice… I don’t really even love homemade pumpkin pie. 😱 However, I do love savory pumpkin recipes like my Mexican Pumpkin Stew with Pork and Hominy and Peruvian Pumpkin Soup.

Pumpkin is, after all, a winter squash, and one that is oft neglected. ☹️Finding more ways to incorporate this flavorful fall vegetable into our meals is a challenge that I’m ready to take on… It’s healthy, full of vitamins, and super flavorful!

📋 Ingredients Notes

Sage Pesto

  • fresh sage leaves
  • walnuts
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic
  • grated parmesan or romano

Barley Risotto

  • cubed pumpkin – Cubed pumpkin is lovely, but so is butternut squash or any of the hard winter squash varieties!
  • olive oil
  • sea salt/ground pepper
  • broth or stock – Use vegetable broth if keeping the risotto vegetarian, otherwise, chicken broth is fine as well. This recipe is fantastic with my homemade vegan vegetable broth.
  • shallot or red onion
  • garlic
  • medium or hulless barley – The cooking times on various types of barley vary greatly. I’ve had the best results with “hulless” barley. It requires about 45 minutes to cook, and retains some of the whole grain texture and flavor. You can adapt this recipe to all but “quick” cooking barley (it will be mushy!). For more information, see Types of Barley.
  • thyme leaves
  • dry sherry or dry white wine
  • cheese – Crumbled bleu cheese is my favorite, but I have also used goat cheese, feta, and parmesan, romano, or asiago.
  • eggs, poached or basted
  • sage pesto 
  • Italian flat leaf parsley

🔪 Instructions

Sage Pesto

  • Make the sage pesto – Combine sage, walnuts, olive oil, and garlic in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until thoroughly combined. Add cheese. Pulse a few more times. Scrape into a squeeze bottle or other container, and set aside.

Risotto

A stoneware roasting pan with prepared pumpkin ready to roast.
  • Prepare the pumpkin – Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 convection roast). Break down the pumpkin. Click Break Down a Pumpkin if you need help! Toss the pumpkin cubes with a generous drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
The pumpkin in a stoneware roasting pan after roasting.
  • Roast the pumpkin – Roast 30 to 45 minutes until tender and edges are beginning to brown nicely. While pumpkin roasts, start the risotto.
Starting the pumpkin barley risotto in a saute pan with onion and garlic.
  • Start the risotto – To a dutch oven on medium-high heat, add olive oil, shallot or onion, and garlic. Heat until fragrant, and onion is softening. Add barley and thyme. Stir to combine. Cook 3-4 minutes until barley just begins to brown. De-glaze the pan with the sherry or wine.
The risotto with a ladleful of broth added, and a silicone spatula.
  • Begin adding the broth/stock – When most of the sherry or wine is absorbed, add broth/stock by the ladle full. If you are using medium cook barley, the cooking process takes about 45 minutes. The barley should be in broth and stirred throughout the process. The mixture should simmer rather than boil. Note: Stir frequently.
The saute pan with the roasted pumpkin and bleu cheese added to the cooked risotto.
  • Finish the risotto – When your risotto has been cooking 40 minutes, begin to taste for doneness. You want al dente, not soft. If you overcook the barley, your risotto will be mushy. When the barley is just barely tender, stir in the roasted pumpkin cubes and the crumbled bleu cheese. Cover and remove from heat while you prepare your eggs.

To Serve

  1. Cook your eggs – Cook 1 egg per serving according to your preferred method. You will want a runny yolk for this dish!
  2. Plate the risotto – In a shallow bowl or plate, place one fourth of the risotto. Make a “well.” Drop in your egg. Drizzle with the sage pesto, and garnish with the fresh, chopped parsley. Enjoy!

💭 Tips

Breaking down a pumpkin can be tedious, and requires patience. 😉 Keep in mind that one even small pumpkin will yield enough for a couple of meals, and it freezes well.

This video has some helpful instructions and photos if you’re uncertain how to begin this task. I am blessed to have a husband that is quite comfortable in the kitchen, and he made quick work of this most recent pumpkin prep.

You want the barley to be covered with broth/stock while it simmers. This necessitates the use of a deep – rather than wide – pan. If you’re having a hard time getting it to the al dente stage, cover it, but don’t forget to stir frequently.

Remember to use medium cook barley. You can also use freekeh (I have successfully) or other whole grain. I’m sure it would be delicious with arborio as well. The process is the same. You will need to adjust the amount of liquid and the cooking time to get it to the al dente stage.

What kind of pumpkins work best for this vegetarian risotto?

I would suggest a sugar pumpkin rather than the large pumpkins you carve for Halloween. A 3 to 4 pound pumpkin will yield several cups of roasted pumpkin cubes, and this recipe requires about 2 cups. 

If I don’t want to break down a pumpkin, or they’re not available, what else can I use?

Many markets have cubed butternut squash, and they’re an excellent alternative. The risotto will still take 40-50 minutes, but you won’t have the prep time involved in breaking down the pumpkin.

What other cheese can I use? I HATE bleu cheese!

If you just can’t handle bleu (blue) cheese, feta isn’t a great substitute. Try a sharp cheddar or gouda (not smoked).

A bowl of roasted pumpkin barley risotto alongside sage pesto, fresh herbs on a wood background

🍷 Pairing Suggestions

A dry French rosé is perfect with this dish… especially in McAllen where the daytime highs are still hitting 90° and higher. This is not “pink wine!” This is a beautiful, complex, bone-dry rosé not to be mistaken for white zinfandel. Lol. Good rosés can be hard to find. Try a full-bodied, rich chardonnay or viognier like Lawrence Dunham Vineyards Viognier. 

I love craft beer too, and I would probably reach for a Belgian with this earthy, robust risotto. Belgian “weirdness” would definitely complement this dish. For the money, I’ve found Real Ale’s Devil’s Backbone (Belgian tripel) to be a solid choice. Whatever your chosen beverage, I hope you’ll give Pumpkin Barley Risotto a try! Fall isn’t just for pumpkin pies and lattés anymore. 🙂

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

Vegetarian Pumpkin Barley Risotto with a poached egg and sage pesto in a yellow ceramic bowl with copper flatware.

Pumpkin Barley Risotto

A delicious, savory way to use a fall favorite – pumpkin. The barley makes a rustic risotto that works really well with the flavors of sage, bleu cheese, roasted pumpkin, and walnuts. Topped with a farm fresh runny egg, what isn’t there to like?
5 from 3 votes

Click to rate!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Vegan or Vegetarian
Cuisine North American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 424 kcal

Equipment

  • Wusthof Classic IKON 7" Santoku Knife
  • Anolon Nouvelle Copper Hard-Anodized Nonstick 4-Quart Risotto Pan

Ingredients
  

Sage Pesto

  • ½ cup fresh sage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts - toasted
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan or romano

Risotto

  • 2 cups pumpkin - cubed*
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • sea salt/ground pepper
  • 4 to 4 ½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot or 1/4 cup red onion - finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic - about 2-3 cloves
  • 1 cup medium or hulless barley*
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup dry sherry or 1/2 cup dry white wine*
  • 1 ounce bleu cheese - crumbled*
  • 4 eggs - poached or basted
  • sage pesto
  • Italian flat leaf parsley - chopped (to garnish)

Instructions

Sage Pesto

  • Combine sage, walnuts, olive oil, and garlic in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until thoroughly combined. Add cheese. Pulse a few more times. Scrape into a squeeze bottle* or other container, and set aside.

Risotto

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 convection roast). Break down the pumpkin. Click How to Break Down a Pumpkin if you need help!
  • Toss the pumpkin cubes with a generous drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Roast 30 to 45 minutes until tender and edges are beginning to brown nicely. While pumpkin roasts, start the risotto.
  • To a medium saucepan, bring broth/stock to a simmer.
  • To a dutch oven on medium-high heat, add olive oil, shallot or onion, and garlic. Heat until fragrant, and onion is softening.
  • Add barley and thyme. Stir to combine. Cook 3-4 minutes until barley just begins to brown. De-glaze the pan with the sherry or wine.
  • When most of the liquid is absorbed, begin to add broth/stock by the ladle full. If you are using medium cook barley, the cooking process takes about 45 minutes. You may want to lower the heat some, and continue to add broth as it is absorbed. The mixture should simmer rather than boil. it requires regular stirring to ensure that all the barley is in contact with the liquid most of the time.
  • When your risotto has been cooking about 40 minutes, begin to taste for doneness. You want al dente, not soft. If you overcook the barley, your risotto will be mushy.
  • When the barley is just barely tender, stir in the roasted pumpkin cubes and the crumbled bleu cheese. Cover and remove from heat while you prepare your eggs.
  • Cook 1 egg per serving according to your preferred method. You will want a runny yolk for this dish!

To Serve

  • In a shallow bowl or plate, place one fourth of the risotto. Make a "well." Drop in your egg. Drizzle with the sage pesto, and garnish with the fresh, chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Notes

Putting the sage pesto into a squeeze bottle makes it super easy to drizzle over the completed risotto. You can use a bowl, and drizzle with a spoon. You probably won’t need it all as a little goes a long way. Drizzle leftovers on veggies, toss with pasta, etc.
I like "medium cook" barley, also referred to as hulless. It holds up better than quick cook which has a tendency to get mushy, but it cooks faster than the "pearl" barley. Whatever barley you use, be sure to adjust cooking times to your specific package instructions!
I have used both sherry and white wine in this recipe with success. I like the flavor of sherry best, but both are good. The main consideration is that it is bone dry! Do NOT use a wine with any residual sugar.
I always try to make a cheese substitution suggestion for those individuals that just can’t "do" bleu cheese. I don’t think feta would be a good substitute. I’d try something sharp like a sharp, aged cheddar, or gouda (not smoked).

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 424kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 50g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

Share this post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

16 Comments

  1. I’m always looking for ways to add interest to weekday meals for my family and serving up a barley risotto is a great way to do that in itself. However, coupled with that pesto, the pumpkin and the runny egg – all that flavour and texture! Thanks for this amazing recipe.

    1. My apologies Alyssa! Even with my husband helping me proofread my recipes, I occasionally miss something. I appreciate you taking time to write. The pumpkin gets folded in with the bleu cheese at the very end.

  2. This sounds like an incredibly homey dish! I love the idea of using barley for the risotto, we always use arborio rice and might have to give this a try the next time we make it!

  3. I have a whole bunch of sage but never thought of making a sage pesto. That sounds great and especially with this pumpkin risotto. Barley in place of rice sounds very interesting. A wonderfully creative recipe Tamara!

    1. I guess I’ve had a lot of time to be creative lately… Since I really don’t know a soul here! I’ve always loved to cook with fresh sage this time of year, but it really isn’t used much in recipes. Let me know what you think if you give it a try 🙂 Thanks for being such an encouragement MJ!