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?
Course Vegetarian Main Dish
Cuisine North American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4
Author Tamara Andersen


Sage Pesto

  • 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, (see notes)
  • 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 barley*
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry or 1/2 cup dry white wine*
  • 1 ounce bleu cheese crumbled, (see notes)
  • 4 eggs poached or basted, (see notes)
  • sage pesto recipe precedes
  • Italian flat leaf parsley chopped (to garnish)


Sage Pesto

  1. 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.


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 convection roast). Break down the pumpkin. Click Break Down a Pumpkin if you need help!
  2. Toss the pumpkin cubes with a generous drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Roast 30 to 45 minutes until tender and edges are beginning to brown nicely. While pumpkin roasts, start the risotto.
  4. To a medium saucepan, bring broth/stock to a simmer.
  5. To a dutch oven on medium-high heat, add olive oil, shallot or onion, and garlic. Heat until fragrant, and onion is softening.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. When the barley is just barely tender, gently fold in the roasted pumpkin crumbled bleu cheese. Remove from heat while you prepare your eggs.
  10. Cook 1 egg per serving according to your preferred method. You will want a runny yolk for this dish!

To Serve

  1. 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!

Recipe 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.

I like "medium cook" barley. It holds up better than quick cook which has a tendency to get mushy, but it cooks faster than the "regular" barley. 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).

If you don't want to mess with poaching your eggs, use your favorite style... Just make sure it's got a little bit of yellow/orange oozing out of it?