A delicious, savory way to use a fall favorite – pumpkin. Pumpkin Barley Risotto is a rustic risotto replete with the flavors of sage, bleu cheese, roasted pumpkin, and walnuts. Topped with a farm fresh runny egg, what isn’t there to like?
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
Autumn is just a synonym for pumpkin season, right? Pumpkin lattés, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and 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!
Making Pumpkin Barley Risotto
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.
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.
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.
Cooking Steps for Pumpkin Barley Risotto
Tips and Suggestions
- Breaking down a pumpkin (or any winter squash for that matter!), is tough. This video by a professional chef may help. Someday, I’ll make my own!
- Just don’t want to deal with it? All is not lost! 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.
- Make sure your knives are sharp!
- Use a good quality broth/stock for best results.
- 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.
- If you just can’t handle bleu (blue) cheese, feta isn’t a great substitute. Try a sharp cheddar or gouda (not smoked).
- 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.
- 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
- 2 tablespoons walnuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan or romano
- 2 cups pumpkin, cubed*
- a drizzle of olive oil
- sea salt/ground pepper
- 4 to 4 1/2 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
- 1/4 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
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).
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 424 Total Fat: 50g Carbohydrates: 24g Protein: 15g
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. 🙂