Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Dill

Photo: Sidney Bensimon
Prep Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins

Nutty pearl barley stands in seamlessly for rice in this hearty risotto starring garlicky sauteed mushrooms and a generous dose of fresh dill.


  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

  • 8 ounces sliced mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster, and beech

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 ½ cups thinly sliced leeks, white- and light-green parts only, well washed and drained

  • 1 ½ cups pearl barley

  • ¼ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

  • ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 ½ ounces), plus more for serving

  • cup chopped fresh dill


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large straight-sided skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms; season with salt. Cook until browned in places, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate; reserve skillet for risotto (do not wipe skillet clean).

  2. In a saucepan, combine broth, 2 cups water, lemon zest, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, heat reserved skillet over medium. Swirl in remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add leeks, season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add barley and cook, stirring, until translucent and grains begin to make a popping sound, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in wine; cook until mostly evaporated, about 30 seconds.

  3. Ladle 1 cup broth mixture into skillet. Stir with a wooden spoon at a moderate speed until most of broth is absorbed and bottom of skillet stays visible for a second or two as you mix, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue ladling broth into skillet, about 1/2 cup at a time (or enough to just cover barley). Stir occasionally, allowing barley to absorb most of broth before adding more. Risotto is ready when barley is tender and creamy and broth has thickened to a rich sauce, 1 hour. (You may not need to use all of broth.)

  4. Remove from heat. Fold in mushroom mixture, butter, lemon juice, and cheese; season with salt and pepper. Top with dill and more cheese; drizzle with oil and sprinkle with more pepper to serve. If the risotto becomes stiff before serving, stir in more hot broth, a little at a time, until it's loose and creamy.

Cook's Notes

Covering barley with water, soaking at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours, and draining will reduce the grain's cooking time by half.

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