March 16, 2012 · Recipe


The other week an Italian-American friend described her plans for dinner. Broccoli rabe (she called it “wild broccoli”) is currently in the markets now. I have been buying it for it’s delicious bitter bite every chance I get. I had used it with spaghetti and garlic, in Thai Pad See Ew, stir-fried with chilis and ginger, and with pappardelle and sun-dried tomatoes. However, her meal of broccoli rabe risotto sounded better than anything I had come up with so far.

I eagerly waited through a few meals using up produce that was more time sensitive than the broccoli rabe, until, finally, it was time. To my dismay, I had been so focused on the broccoli rabe, I had forgotten to check my risotto supply. I had only about a quarter cup.

Thankfully a quick bit of research led me to substituting barley, which I had plenty of, for the arborio rice. I followed the same procedure as usual, adding sauteed broccoli rabe toward the end. The dish was wonderful. The barley had more bite and less starch than the arborio would have, but created a much lighter, warm weather friendly risotto. It worked so well that the next time I make risotto, I will need to put in some serious time deciding which grain to use.


  • about 500g/1 lb broccoli rabe
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 stalks of celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 4-5 C broth (or water)- more may be needed
  • 1 C pearled barley
  • Butter
  • Parmesan
  • Salt  & Pepper


  1. Pull leaves off broccoli rabe stalks. Slice stalks into 1-2 cm pieces. Roughly chop leaves. Keep separate.
  2. Thinly slice 2 cloves of garlic.
  3. Mince remaining 2 cloves or garlic, onion and celery (I use a food processor).
  4. Heat broth to a simmer. Keep warm- cold broth will not cook the grain properly in the risotto.



  1. Heat a couple glugs of olive oil in a large pan. Add sliced garlic and saute until fragrant.
  2. Add broccoli rabe stalks and a sprinkle of salt. Saute until almost tender.
  3. Add broccoli rabe leaves and another sprinkle of salt. Saute until lightly wilted. Set aside.
  4. In a large sauce pan, heat a couple more glugs of olive oil. Add minced garlic, onion and celery. Saute until softened and just beginning to brown- about 8 minutes.
  5. Add barley and cook a few minutes until grain is translucent. Lower heat to medium-low.
  6. Add white wine and stir. Cook until wine is absorbed.
  7. Add about 1/2 a cup of hot broth. Stir and cook until broth is absorbed. Repeat this process (switching to water if necessary) until barley is nearly tender.
  8. When barley is almost cooked through (it should still have some bite), add the broccoli rabe. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. When risotto is finished (a bit loose in consistency- add more water or broth if necessary- and a little “toothsome”), through in a large slice of butter and some grated parmesan.


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