Baked Kale Barley Risotto

5 from 2 votes

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If you’ve never made risotto before, you have to try this easy kale barley risotto. It starts on the stove and then bakes in the oven for most of the cook time. Unlike traditional risotto recipes, where you have to constantly stir in broth a little bit at a time, this method reduces the amount of work and you still end up with that cozy creaminess. Once you make risotto this way, there is no going back.

You can also try this baked lemon risotto with fresh herbs.

Baked kale barley risotto on a plate.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This one-pot vegetarian meal is risotto without the work. As a kitchen multitasker, risotto can be a challenge because it requires so much focus and attention when you simmer it on the stove. Baking it in the oven will you give you the freedom to do all the other tasks required to get dinner on the table.

This is a kale recipe that even kale skeptics will like. That’s because I make kale pesto with garlic, toasted walnuts and parmesan and fold it into the cooked grains. I am obsessed with pesto. It is a magical no-cook sauce that has so much more flavor than just the base ingredient, in this case kale.

Barley is a fantastic alternative to traditional risotto rice. Since barley is versatile and can be used in soups, salads and side dishes, you might be more likely to have it in your pantry than arborio rice. Cooked barley has a satisfyingly chewy bite too.

What is Risotto?

Typically served before the main course, risotto is a rice dish hailing from Northern Italy. The grains get their signature creamy and tender consistency as you carefully pour broth into the pot, stirring after each addition. Make no mistake—risotto does not have actual cream in it. The starch from the rice grains gives it that texture.

Risotto is made with short grain, high starch rices such as Arborio, Carnaroli and Vialone Nano. That doesn’t mean you can’t use barley or farro and cook them in that same risotto method. For me, this comes down to convenience. I like to stock my pantry with ingredients that can be used in more than one type of recipe.

The Ingredients

Ingredients including kale, pearl barley, onions, olive oil, Parmesan, garlic, walnuts, white wine, salt and pepper.

This is what you need:

  • Kale: You can use curly kale or lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale). Curly kale is lighter green in color. The leaves are bigger and easier to tear with your hands instead of having to chop them with a knife.
  • Barley: Because the husk and the outer layers have been removed, pearl barley cooks faster than hulled barley. That’s what you should use for this recipe.
  • Onions: Sautéing white or yellow onions in olive oil is the starting point for the aromatics in the recipe.
  • White wine: Pouring in a half cup of dry white wine after you stir in the barley deglazes the bottom of the pan. The alcohol cooks out, and it adds good acidity and sharpness to balance out the richness of the risotto.
  • Vegetable broth: Use low-sodium broth, so you can control the seasonings. You can swap with chicken broth if you don’t need the risotto to be vegetarian.
  • Garlic: There are 2 garlic cloves in the kale pesto.
  • Walnuts: To enhance their nuttiness, always toast your walnuts before you puree them in the pesto. You can do this by spreading the nuts across a sheet pan and toasting them for 5 minutes in a 350-degree F oven. 
  • Parmesan cheese is a key ingredient in this kale pesto. I also sprinkle the finished dish with more for garnish.
  • Salt & pepper are in the pesto, so that’s how the overall dish is seasoned.
  • Olive oil: For the best taste, use extra virgin olive oil.

How To Make Kale Barley Risotto

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

1. Make the kale pesto. Using a food processor or blender, chop the garlic, 1 cup kale leaves, walnuts, parmesan, salt and pepper. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feeder tube. Continue processing until the pesto is completely combined.

2. Sauté the onions. Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in an oven-safe dutch oven or a big pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions until they become soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes.

Kale pesto in a food processor. Onions sautéing in a dutch oven.

3. Add the barley. Cook for 1 minute until the grains are opaque. 

4. Pour in the wine. It will bubble and the barley will absorb it in a couple minutes.

Barley sautéing with onions. Wine poured into barley-onion mixture in a dutch oven.

5. Add the vegetable stock. Bring it to a boil and cover the pot with a lid. Bake the risotto in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the barley is tender. There will still be a little liquid in the pot. Just taste a couple grains to make sure they are cooked.

6. Stir in the kale pesto and remaining kale leaves. I like to add the pesto first, so it is well distributed throughout the cooked barley. Then I fold in the torn kale.

Vegetable broth simmering in dutch oven. Finished risotto with kale pesto and kale leaves stirred into it.

What To Serve with Risotto

Salads and sautéed veggie side dishes are both good with risotto. Since this recipe requires the oven, I prefer sides that are no-cook or cook on the stove. You can make a simple arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette, a classic house salad or an Italian chopped salad. For a vegetable side dish, try quick sautéed brussels sprouts.

Leftovers & Storage

You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Warm them on the stove in a skillet over low heat, stirring the risotto. You can also warm them in the microwave. The grains will become softer the longer you store them and when you reheat them.

Baked kale risotto in a bowl.

Recipe FAQs

Can you use arborio rice?

Yes, you can make this substitution and cook the recipe as it is written.

Is this risotto recipe gluten free?

Barley is not a gluten-free grain. Use arborio rice if you can’t eat gluten. 

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Baked Kale Barley Risotto

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
If you’ve never made risotto before, you have to try this easy kale barley risotto. It starts on the stove and then bakes in the oven for most of the cook time. You stir in a simple kale pesto with toasted walnuts, garlic and parmesan.

Ingredients 

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 cups torn kale leaves (curly kale or lacinato kale)
  • 1/3 cup toasted chopped walnuts, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • For the kale pesto, finely chop the garlic, 1 cup kale leaves, walnuts, parmesan, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. With the motor running, slowly pour 1/3 cup olive oil through the feeder tube. Continue processing until the pesto is fully combined. 
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in an ovenproof large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onions until they are soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the barley and cook for 1 minute until opaque. Pour in the wine, letting it bubble and be absorbed by the barley. 
  • Add the veggie broth and bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan with a lid and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the barley is tender.
  • Stir in the kale pesto. Then fold in the remaining kale. The heat from the rice will soften the leaves in a couple minutes.
  • Divide the risotto into serving dishes and top with grated parmesan and walnuts as desired.

Notes

To make the recipe gluten free, use arborio rice instead of barley.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Warm the risotto on the stove in a large skillet over low heat, stirring it. Or warm it in the microwave. The grains will soften more the longer you store them and when you rewarm them.

Nutrition

Calories: 492kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 725mg | Potassium: 439mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 5088IU | Vitamin C: 50mg | Calcium: 220mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Italian
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Hi, I'm Paige.

Welcome to Last Ingredient where you will find simple seasonal recipes with plenty of fruits and vegetables, all for the home cook.

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3 Comments

  1. This looks amazing, I’m adding this to my list of recipes I want to try this winter! Have you ever tried freezing this/think it would freeze well? Thanks!

    1. I don’t recommend freezing risotto because once you freeze, thaw and reheat it, the texture of the barley will become too soft and possibly mushy.