Roast butternut and barley Risotto

I love the simplicity of bowl food, especially when it’s crammed with vegetables and wholesome grains. The combination of barley, roast butternut and spinach are a classic combination and full of wintery goodness. My family love this roast butternut and barley risotto, especially on chilly autumn days when we need healthy comfort food.

Barley risotto won’t have the same consistency or texture as a traditional risotto. This nutritious grain lacks the starchy character of arborio rice, but is more than compensated for by its healthy benefits. Barley is one of the earliest cultivated grains with a nutty taste and toothsome bite. It’s rich in dietary fibre, vitamin B1 and selenium.  For this recipe, all the stock is added in one addition and left to bubble away until tender.  I roast the butternut for extra flavour before adding it to the cooked risotto. Sautéing the leeks and shallots slowly will release their natural sweetness. For a fresh peppery contrast, I mix in some wild rocket just before serving. Toasted pine nuts and plenty of parmesan will finish off this wholesome bowl. It reheats well so if there are any leftovers, pack to a work lunch or school lunch boxes.

Roast butternut and barley Risotto

Roast butternut and barley risotto

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
500g butternut, cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon butter
2 leeks, diced
1 shallot, finely diced
1 bunch Swiss chard, centre stem removed and shredded
zest of half a lemon, plus juice
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 stem fresh rosemary, de-stalked and finely chopped
1 heaped cup (225g) barley
1/3 cup white wine
800ml weak vegetable stock
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 pack wild rocket (about 30g), finely chopped
generous handful toasted pine nuts
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200º C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the butternut out on the sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with oregano, salt and pepper. Roast for about 40-45 minutes until caramelised and tender.

Heat the remaining olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in sauté pan. Add the leeks and diced shallot. Cook over a medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the chard, lemon zest, chilli and rosemary. Once the spinach has wilted down, stir in the barley. Deglaze the pan with the wine and reduce down by half. Pour in all the stock, cover with a lid and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes. The stock should be completely absorbed and the barley tender to the bite.

Add half the parmesan cheese and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. The risotto should be creamy and loose, so add a little more water if you think it’s needed. Now gently fold through the roasted butternut and rocket. Serve immediately with the remaining parmesan and toasted pine nuts. For additional texture, colour and flavour, I scatter over some beetroot threaded sprouts.


Butternut is one the most versatile vegetables. Here are a couple of recipes that have been most popular on the Bibby’s Kitchen blog:

Roast butternut and sweet potato soup

Roast Butternut Crustless Quiche

Butternut flatbreads with beets and goat’s cheese truffles


6 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Di, can you use Kale instead of the swiss chard or a combination of the 2?
    Can’t wait to try this for Meat Free Monday.

  • Dianne Bibby
    8 June 2015 9:56 am

    Morning Michelle. Absolutely. Baby spinach is another great option and doesn’t need much prep as it’s more delicate and wilts down even faster. Enjoy!

  • Oh Di, this barley risotto looks absolutely glorious. I actually at first glance thought it was a wintry salad – which even if it were would be wonderful. I am definately going to try this. Sam

  • Dianne Bibby
    12 June 2015 5:49 am

    Thanks Sam. You’re right, this is almost like a warm type of salad. Any opportunity to include butternut and spinach and I’m in! Hope your family will also enjoy this bowl of warming goodness.

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