Recipes Side Dishes Rice and Grains Barley with Asparagus and Herbs

Barley with Asparagus and Herbs

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Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

Here, barley is cooked in the same manner as Arborio rice in risotto—warm liquid is slowly added to the toasted grains, which results in a creamy consistency. Asparagus is the perfect addition in spring, but you can vary the recipe using other seasonal vegetables, such zucchini in summer and delicata squash in the winter.


  • 1 lb. (500 g) asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces
  • 4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup (7 oz./220 g) pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) dry white wine
  • 6 Tbs. (1 1/2 oz./45 g) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook just until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again. Set aside.

Warm the broth in a clean saucepan over low heat.

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and sage and season with salt and pepper. Sauté just until the garlic softens, about 1 minute. Stir in the barley and toast, stirring often, for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Using a ladle, add about 1⁄2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the warm broth at a time, stirring often and allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful of broth. This will take about 35 minutes in total.

When all of the broth has been absorbed, stir in the asparagus and Parmesan and cook until the asparagus is warmed through, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately, passing extra Parmesan at the table. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Chicken Night, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2014)

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