Red Wine, Pea and Mushroom Orzotto

An Orzotto is essentially a pearl barley risotto, this one is loaded with mushrooms and peas and is a wonderful winter warmer!

Portrait overhead image of a pea and mushroom orzotto featuring pearl barley served in a white shallow bowl

A Pearl Barley Risotto, Really?

So stick with me on this! The Italian word for barley is Orzo, yes just like the pasta I used in this orzo salad. The pasta gets its names form its shape being similar to grains of barley.

In the north of eastern Italy, they make a risotto from pearl barley.

And that risotto is called, you guessed it Orzotto!

As of late there has been a trend of using orzo pasta to make a risotto type dish using this name. It probably comes from a misunderstanding but it is actually pretty tasty.

This recipe uses pretty classic techniques with some of my favourite flavours. It is also vegetarian if that is important to you and even simpler than a risotto!

The barley itself has a wonderfully earthy flavour that I love and a really great almost chewy texture.

Portrait close up image of a pea and mushroom orzotto featuring pearl barley served in a white shallow bowl

What is Pearl Barley?

Pearl barley or pearled barley is barley grain that has had its outer husk removed.

It has been used as a food source around the world for hundreds of years and it features in both my rabbit stew and my cockaleekie soup.

It is also one of the key ingredients in a classic Jewish Cholent.

But enough of the ingredient lessons there is something important to note about cooking with this stuff.

Pearling barley differs from country to country and to be honest from producer to producer.

So the first time that you cook this recipe, either know your product and be prepared to be flexible on the amount of stock you use.

The second time round you should be sorted, and trust me there will be a second time. This dish is relatively new to me (last couple of years) and I now cook it ALL of the time!

Portrait image of a pea and mushroom orzotto featuring pearl barley served in a white shallow bowl

How to Cook Pearl Barley Risotto.

There are loads of risotto recipes here on krumpli and I am pretty fastidious on process.

A good risotto needs stirring, it is not a difficult task but a time consuming one. I maintain that you can taste the love and patience that has been put into a risotto.

This is because all that stirring breaks down the starches in the rice and makes for the creamiest risotto.

A “risotto” made with pearl barley does not need that kind of attention, we add the stock a little at a time and keep it moving.

But in reality, stirring it a few times after every addition of stock is fine. And the stock can be added in much larger quantities than in risotto.

Once the barley has the tiniest of bites and is just past chewy it is done.

After that, I use the same technique I use to finish all of my risotto recipes, add some butter and maybe cheese and allow it to rest for 3-4 minutes.

Landscape overhead image of a pea and mushroom orzotto featuring pearl barley served in a white shallow bowl
Recipe for Pea and Mushroom Orzotto

Recipe for Pea and Mushroom Orzotto

Yield: 2 Servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

An Orzotto is a North Italian recipe that is essentially a pearl barley risotto, this one is a pea and mushroom variant and it tastes stunning!


  • 100 g Pearl Barley
  • 500 ml Vegetable Stock
  • 250 g Mushrooms
  • 150 g Onion
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 150 ml Red Wine
  • 35 g Butter
  • 25 g Parmesan Cheese
  • 150 g Peas
  • Snipped Chives


  1. Begin by heating the stock.
  2. Slice the mushrooms into 3-4mm thick slices.
  3. Finely dice the onion and finely chop the garlic.
  4. Heat half of the olive oil in a pan over a high heat.
  5. Add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and pepper and fry until nicely coloured.
  6. Remove the mushrooms and reduce the heat to medium.
  7. Pour in the remaining oil.
  8. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent but do not colour.
  9. Then in goes the pearl barley and it gets cooked for a further 3-4 minutes.
  10. Increase the heat a little and add in the red wine and stir until it has all been absorbed/evaporated.
  11. Return the mushrooms to the barley along with around a third of the stock.
  12. Simmer stirring occasionally until the stock has been almost completely absorbed.
  13. Repeat this another two times until all of the stock is used and the barley is cooked but has the slightest of "bites".
  14. Cooking should take between 35 and 45 minutes.
  15. If you are using frozen peas now is a good time to defrost them in some running cold water.
  16. Add in the peas, parmesan cheese and butter, then cover with a lid and allow to sit for 3-4 minutes.
  17. Whilst dinner is resting chop lots of chives.
  18. When ready stir through must of the chives reserving a few to sprinkle over the top.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 574Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 1055mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 10gSugar: 13gProtein: 14g
Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

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