Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta

September 16 2019

Recently, I was looking for a recipe for a main course that was hearty and filling that didn’t include any protein.  I came across this amazing barley risotto from Yotam Ottolenghi.  Many of you know about Yotam…an Israeli transplant to London, England who has had incredible success with his restaurants and cookbooks.  I had an incredible meal at NOPI a number of years ago and can’t wait for my next visit to London to check out his newer restaurants. Meanwhile, I pulled Yotam’s Jerusalem cookbook from my library and flipped through and came across this lovely risotto recipe.  It’s a substantial dish, with tomatoes, garlic, barley and finished off with feta. I've adjusted the recipe slightly. 

One of the ingredients, Passata, is a little difficult to find at a traditional grocery store.  I have found it at Whole Foods, or you can order it online.  You can also used puréed tomatoes, but run them through a food mill or sieve to remove any seeds and to make it smoother. It’s perfect as a vegetarian main course, paired with a salad, or you can serve it as a side dish to any protein you’d like.  I especially like it with fish.

Barley Risotto

with Feta

Serves 4

Total Time: 1 hour

3 tbsp olive oil, plus an extra trickle at the end 2 whole heads garlic, cloves separated, peeled and quartered 1 3/4 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped 7 ounces passata*  ½ tsp smoky paprika 1/8 tsp dried chili flakes 1 tbsp picked thyme  6 to 8 strips fresh lemon zest 1 1/2 tsp caster sugar* 1 tsp salt 10 ounces pearl barley, well rinsed in cold water and drained 3/4-1 cup water  juice of one lemon 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, plus extra to garnish Black pepper 3/4 cup feta, crumbled roughly Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan and sauté the garlic quarters for about two minutes, or until golden.  Add the tomatoes, passata, paprika, chili, thyme, lemon zest, sugar, salt, barley and a ladleful of water; stir and bring the mix to a simmer. Cook over minimal heat for 50-60 minutes, until the barley is tender but still firm to the bite. You’ll need to stir it from time to time, so it doesn’t stick to the pan, and add water mixed with the lemon juice occasionally, making sure there is always just enough liquid left in the pot to cook the barley.  At the end of the cooking, the mix should be runny enough to easily to spoon into bowls. Once done, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the coriander and some freshly ground black pepper. Add most of the feta, stir gently so the cheese doesn’t break up too much and stays in largish chunks, taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Spoon into serving bowls, sprinkle with the reserved feta and coriander, and drizzle over a little olive oil. Chef’s Note:  If you can’t find passata, use crushed tomatoes, but run them through a sieve or food mill to make them smoother and remove the seeds. Caster sugar is also called Baker's sugar or Superfine sugar.  It's consistency is between granulated sugar and powdered sugar.  If you can't find Baker's or Superfine sugar, feel free to put granulated sugar in the food processor and pulse a few times.

Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

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