Orzotto alle Zucchine (Pearled Barley with Zucchini and Saffron)


All of you know risotto, right? This is “about” the same, just it’s made using pearled barley rather than rice 🙂 (but it can be made also with pearled farro).

We all know the importance of cereals, and this is an easy and very good way to cook barley, and the possibilities are many, like for risotto: we can use many kind of vegetables, mushrooms, etc.

In this post I’m going to use zucchini, plus saffron (but I have to say that if you don’t have saffron at home, it’s good also without!)


INGREDIENTS (2 people)

  • 150g of pearled barley 
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 small shallot (or half onion, or if you prefer you can use 1-2 cloves of garlic, they are all good options)
  • half glass of dry white wine
  • extra virgin olive oil, about 4/5 table spoons (but also with butter is good, remember, it’s about like making risotto 🙂 )
  • vegetable broth, about half liter (but if you have some good hen broth remaining from yesterday, you can use it! it will be even more tasty 😀 )
  • fresh parsley
  • salt
  • freshly grounded black pepper
  • saffron, 1 small bag
  • grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to make it creamy in the end


  1. First of all wash the pearled barley and the zucchini, then cut the zucchini into small pieces, and the shallot/onion very small.
  2. Start boiling the vegetable broth (or if you don’t have it, prepare it before with the usual onion, carrot, celery, etc.)
  3. Take a pot, and start heating the extra virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot enough, put the zucchini and cook them for about 4/5 minutes. Then take them out: half of it will be reduced in cream later with a blender, instead the other half we will put back soon.
  4. Now put the shallot/onion in the pan, to brown slowly (or as I said above, if you prefer you can use garlic, to remove when it gets some color). Once it gets softer, set the flame higher and add the pearled barley. Toast it for a couple of minutes (take care not to burn the shallot/onion, if you think it’s better then you can take it out meanwhile you do this step), then add the white wine and simmer until it’s reduced.
  5. When the wine is reduced, add back the half of the zucchini and cover the barley with the vegetable broth, and set the flame on medium. It will take about 30 minutes to cook the barley (but read on your package). Had the liquid to evaporate during this time, then add more soup.
  6. After about 20/25 minutes, mix the other half of the zucchini with a blender until creamy, and put the saffron into a small amount of hot broth, then add both to the barley and mix well together. Control if it’s salty enough, and if needed add extra salt, and some black pepper.
  7. When the barley is cooked, switch off the fire,  add some finely chopped parsley and then add just some extra virgin olive oil to make it creamy, if you want the recipe to be vegan…personally I added Parmigiano Reggiano, like in risotto, which definitely adds extra taste 🙂 or you can add also some butter if you want.
  8. Cover the pot and wait 2/3 minutes, then mix well a last time, and serve it 🙂

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