pearl barley risotto with wild mushrooms and peas

After what seemed to be a particularly long winter, the sun has finally emerged here in New York (of course, with a fair share of rainy spring days along with it). Henry and I have been working furiously at our house, trying to get ready to move in next month. It has been a long, trying process – one with many obstacles and countless frustrations. Though, we are finally seeing the promise of a light at the end of the tunnel this spring, which feels fitting amid a season of new beginnings. 

I love this time of year – the weddings, parties, and time spent outside with family and friends; the abundant color at the farmer’s markets, marking the end of the grays and browns of a Northeast winter. Everything feels alive and fresh, and the inspiration is endless. 

This Friday marks National Pinot Grigio Day, and in that spirit I’ve partnered with Cavit Wines to bring you a spring-inspired pearl barley risotto that pairs beautifully with their crisp Pinot Grigio. The risotto is cooked slowly with a simple, homemade vegetable stock (though if in a pinch, store-bought vegetable stock will do), and finished with a bit of cream and mascarpone cheese for richness and heft. The pearl barley adds a subtle nuttiness and is topped with bright, spring greens, peas, and seared mushrooms. It is fit for a dinner party, but it’s one-pan preparation makes it a simple enough dinner for a weeknight. Serve it alongside a chilled glass of Cavit Pinot Grigio one of these warm, spring nights and enjoy.

pearl barley risotto with wild mushrooms and peas

This risotto is a true spring meal. The subtle nuttiness of the pearl barley is cooked slowly in an aromatic vegetable broth until tender and finished with a bit of cream and mascarpone for richness. It is topped with bright, spring greens and peas and seared wild mushrooms. The stock can be made ahead, and any leftovers can be frozen for another use. Store-bought stock will do, although I encourage you to make it yourself if you have the time – it really only requires a few minutes of chopping the leftovers of your vegetable drawer, and otherwise just bubbles away on its own. Its beautiful, delicate flavor only enhances the risotto. 


serves 2 – 4


for the broth:

1 tablespoon olive oil 

5 carrots, peeled + cut into medium chunks

4 stalks of celery, cut into medium chunks

1 onion, peeled + cut into medium chunks

4 garlic cloves, crushed + peeled

mushroom trimmings (optional)

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

handful fresh parsley with stems

handful thyme sprigs


Add the olive oil to stock pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mushroom trimmings (if using), peppercorns, and bay leaves and sauté until just starting to soften, but not brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the parsley and thyme sprigs and 2 ½ quarts of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and reduce to a simmer.

Simmer, uncovered, until broth is flavorful, about 1 – 1 ½ hours. Remove from heat, strain, and discard solids. 


for the risotto:

4 cups vegetable broth (recipe above)

3 cups water

4 tablespoons olive oil 

2 cups mixed wild mushrooms, trimmed 

coarse salt

½ yellow onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 cup (185g) pearl barley

½ cup dry white wine

¼ cup fresh English peas

¼ cup shaved parmesan, plus more for serving

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

zest of 1 lemon

freshly cracked black pepper


for serving:

mixed greens (I used watercress and purple frill)

olive oil 

coarse salt

hazelnuts, toasted + chopped


To make the risotto: Add the broth and water to a large saucepan and keep warm over low heat. 

In a large cast iron skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Once hot, add the mushrooms and sauté, moving only once or twice, until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and remove from the heat. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate, and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chopped onion and season generously with salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the barley and stir to combine. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer, stirring frequently, until almost completely evaporated. Add ½ cup of the warm stock mixture and cook, again stirring frequently, until almost completely evaporated. Continue in this fashion, adding broth ½ cup at a time, until the barley is tender and only ½ cup of broth remains (this should take about 50 minutes – 1 hour). Stir in the peas, mushrooms, and remaining ½ cup of broth and simmer until peas are just tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the parmesan, heavy cream, and mascarpone and allow to bubble for about 1 minute longer. (The risotto should be loose, but not soupy. Add more water if you wish to thin it, or let it simmer for a few minutes longer if you find it to be too loose). Stir in the lemon zest, freshly cracked black pepper, and season with salt to taste, to finish. 

To serve, dress the mixed greens lightly with olive oil and season with salt. Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and top each with a handful of greens, chopped hazelnuts, and parmesan shavings.  Enjoy immediately.


This post was sponsored by Cavit, but as always, all opinions are my own. 

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