If you love fresh, Mediterranean style vegetables, you will love this Easy Vegetarian Orzotto recipe! It is a versatile, hearty dish with all the goodness of barley and lots of fresh veggies. A great vegetarian main dish, it also makes an easy side dish that goes with just about anything.
What is Orzotto?
Orzotto is a delicious dish common in Italian cookery. It’s similar to risotto but it’s made with pearl barley instead of rice.
While both rice and pearl barley are nutritious, pearl barley is healthier than even brown rice because it contains around twice the fibre and calcium. However barley does contain gluten, so please be aware it’s not suitable for gluten-free diets. Barley also contains protein, manganese and selenium.
One advantage to making orzotto over risotto is that it requires less stirring. You add the stock all at once, and just stir occasionally. Like risotto, orzotto lends itself to invention. You can get really creative with the herbs, spices and added ingredients so I make lots of variations. Another of my favourites is Mushroom Orzotto.
Hints and Tips to Make the Best Easy Vegetarian Orzotto
Orzotto is one of those recipes where it is especially important to practice mis-en-place, or having everything ready to go before you start. There is a fair amount of slicing, dicing and chopping plus a bit of stirring (although not as much as for risotto) so you want to have all the ingredients within easy reach.
I like to cook most of the vegetables separately towards the end of the orzotto’s cooking time as it means they stay crisper.
You can leave out the sherry or Madeira if you want this dish to be alcohol free. You may need to add a bit more stock though.
My Easy Vegetarian Orzotto with Mediterranean Vegetables will serve three to four as a main dish, or up to eight as a side dish. Cool leftovers quickly and refrigerate. They will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge. You can reheat them on the stove or in the microwave. Add a bit of boiling water just to loosen the sauce.
Easy, wholesome and flavourful, this nutrient rich dish will be a welcome addition to your menu rotation, whether you are a full time vegetarian or just an occasional vegetarian like me!
Easy Vegetarian Orzotto – Printable Recipe
- about 3¼ cups (roughly 750 ml) vegetable stock
- 2 generous teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon celery salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons mild olive oil, divided
- 1 red or white onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or 1 tablespoon Very Lazy Garlic
- 1⅓ cups (roughly 250 grams) pearl barley, rinsed and drained
- ⅓ cup Madeira or sherry
- 2 cups sliced or quartered mushrooms
- 1 large zucchini (courgette) or 2 medium zucchinis, cut in half horizontally and sliced in half moons
- 1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed and sliced in pieces
- (or use 1 cup of sugar snap peas, or 1 cup of frozen peas)
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish
- Put the vegetable stock in a pitcher and whisk in the mustard, celery salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large casserole or saucepan with a lid.(I use my Le Creuset casserole dish.)
- Gently sauté the onion until it begins to soften.
- Stir in the garlic, followed by the the pearl barley and let cook for a moment or two, stirring constantly.
- Pour in the stock mixture all at once and turn the heat up a little to bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Turn back the heat to low, pop on a lid and let the orzotto cook for about 40 minutes, stirring every seven or eight minutes, being careful the mixutre does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Once the orzotto has been cooking for about 20 minutes, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
- Stir in the mushrooms and zucchini and cook until they begin to soften and take up some colour.
- (Don't forget to keep stirring the orzotto occasionally.
- Finally, stir in the asparagus and/or peas and stir fry until nearly tender crisp.
- Add the vegetables to the orzotto and let the mixture continue to cook until all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Taste the orzotto and if the barley is not tender enough, you can stir in a little more stock, boiling water or Madeira.
- Once the orzotto is tender, taste for seasoning. You can add a bit of salt and/or pepper if needed.
- Divide between 4 bowls or plates.
- Garnish with the flat leaf parsley.
- Serve with a crisp green salad, a tomato and onion salad, or hot rolls if you like.