Red Wine Barley Risotto


Almost everything can be changed/swapped without messing things up. For this recipe I’ve listed the necessary and optional ingredients separately so that you can get creative.



4 1/2 cups reduced sodium vegetable  broth (or reduced sodium chicken broth)

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1/8 tsp thyme

1/2 cup pearled barley (you can replace the barley with more rice if you prefer/can’t find it)

1/2 cup Arborio rice (you can replace the rice with barley if you want some extra protein)

1/2 cup red wine (or white, both are delicious)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (preferably not the stuff that’s pre-grated and in the green shaker)

1 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper


2 cups broccoli florets

1/2 red bell pepper

1 cup frozen peas

Sun-dried tomatoes

Note that the barley or rice can be substituted for one another depending on your preference, as long as you have 1 cup of one or both of those. Also note that the wine choice between red and white is optional, and to be honest you don’t NEED it, but it makes it extra tasty


  1. In a small saucepan, bring the vegetable broth to a gentle simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to low for the remainder of the cooking
  2. Cook broccoli florets and red bell pepper however you prefer, or not at all (I saute mine for a few minutes). Add the frozen peas to the other veggies while they are warm. This defrosts the peas but leaves them with a nice texture for the risotto.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan (something at least 2 inches deep, but with a large diameter) over medium heat.
  4. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme and cook until the onion is soft (~5 minutes)
  5. Add the barley and/or rice and allow to cook while stirring frequently for  ~2 minutes
  6. Add the wine and stir until absorbed. The time for the absorption here, and for the rest of this dish will vary. I consider the liquid absorbed when I can stir it, and there is just a tiny bit of liquid gathered around the starches still bubbling. The liquid is basically gone, but the food is not cooking in a dry pan either.
  7. Once the wine is absorbed, add 1 cup of warm broth, and repeat the stirring process until absorbed
  8. Add 1/2 cup of broth and stir until absorbed
  9. Repeat step 7 five more times. You will have used 4 cups of broth by this time, and the risotto should look very creamy, almost cheesy.
  10. This time, add the last 1/2 cup of broth. Stir until about 1/2 to 3/4 of the liquid is absorbed, and add your veggies/mix-ins of choice (broccoli florets, peppers, peas, and sun-dried tomatoes for my case)
  11. Stir in the butter and Parmesan (you can go lighter on these ingredients if you want to be a little healthier)
  12. The texture at this point should be pretty thick and creamy (if it’s not, stir it for another minute  or so over the heat). Remove from heat and check the taste and season with some salt and pepper  (it’s important to check the taste first for this recipe because it can get really salty between the broth and the cheese).

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