Recipes Main Courses Pasta Rice and Grains Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

This version of risotto replaces traditional Arborio rice with barley; high in soluble fiber, it helps process cholesterol in the body. We also swapped out butter for olive oil, which is high in healthy fats that promote smooth skin and hair. The cooking method remains the same so your final dish is still the creamy, comforting texture that defines a good risotto.


  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch
      (2.5-cm) cubes
  • 4 Tbs. (4 fl. oz./125 ml) olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 cup (7 oz./220 g) pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Preheat an oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, toss the squash with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and season well with salt and pepper. Roast, stirring once, until tender and caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the broth. In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sage and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the barley and cook, stirring often, until toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is evaporated. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) of the broth, stirring often, until the liquid is completely absorbed, about 5 minutes. Continue to add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more.

When the barley is tender and the risotto is creamy, remove from the heat. Stir in the squash and cheese. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Healthy Dish of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2014).