9 February 2010 | 5 Comments
Italian cuisine is known for pasta and risotto and polenta and, to a lesser extent, for farro. But did you know that Italians also enjoy barley? Here is a simple, basic barley soup that is both healthy, appetizing and, if made in a pressure cooker, can be prepared in under 30 minutes.
Begin by sautéing a soffritto of onion, carrot, celery and, if you like, a little pancetta in olive oil, taking care not to let them brown. When the vegetables have softened, add your barley (50g /2 oz. per person is a good portion as a first course). Allow the barley to insaporire as you would for a risotto, then add water or broth to cover generously, at least 1 liter (4 cups) of liquid per 100g (4 oz.) of barley. (NB: Barley absorbs a lot of liquid as it cooks.) Simmer covered for 45 minutes or until tender, stirring from time to time and adding water or broth as needed. The result should be a very thick soup, almost a porridge, but not entirely dry. Serve immediately, topped with un filo d’olio. Have some grated cheese on the side for those who like it.
If using a pressure cooker, bring up to pressure, lower the heat to a minimum and cook for 15 minutes, then release the pressure. When you open the cooker, check for liquid: if it has been entirely absorbed, add more water or broth and let simmer for a few minutes more. If there is too much liquid (less likely, given barley’s aborptive qualities) then just let is simmer until you have reached the proper consistency.
NOTES: This is the very basic ‘mother’ recipe for barley soup. There are lots of variations you can try, including the use of fresh herbs of your choice in the soffritto—parsley, rosemary and sage are particularly nice. Some recipes call for the addition of other vegetables, perhaps most commonly potato or pumpkin but also with leafy winter vegetables like kale or cabbage. Beans of all kinds—cannellini, borlotti, ceci, lentils, even peas—are also a very common addition, and turn this primo into a perfectly rounded piatto unico.
Beef broth, of course, is probably the best choice for making this soup, but it is perfectly lovely with vegetable broth or even just water. Chicken broth, on the other hand, while a possible choice, in my opinion does not really pair very well with barley. Some recipes call for soaking barley for a few hours before cooking to soften it. I find this step entirely unnecessary, at least with the barley that is sold commercially here in the US.
For this particular soup, instead of pancetta, I used a ham bone that I had left over (believe it or not!) from Christmas dinner. It gave a wonderful porky flavor to the soup. If using a ham bone, fish it out of the soup before serving and scrape off any meat. But the meat up into small pieces and add it to the soup.
Besides this stick-to-the-ribs winter soup, orzo also appears on Italian tables in the warmer months as a salad. It’s quite a versatile grains!
Orzo, by the way, is also the name of a popular soup pasta, so be careful if Googling for recipes.
Leave a Reply
FOLLOW US ON NETWORKED BLOGS
Recipes by Region
Frank’s TweetsMy Tweets
All posts and other material contained on this website is, unless otherwise stated, the property of Frank A. Fariello, Jr. Copyright and other intellectual property laws protect these materials. Reproduction or retransmission of the materials, in whole or in part, in any manner, except for non-commercial, personal use, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, is a violation of copyright law. Requests for permission to reproduce or distribute materials available on this website should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.