Orzo is barley, and orzotto is simply barley cooked in the style of a risotto. The more I eat it, the more I think I actually prefer it to traditional risotto, as the barley retains a really lovely nutty bite when cooked. I can’t get enough of asparagus when it’s in season, and I think I’ll be making this a few more times before the season finishes. It’s creamy and comforting, but also full of fresh, vibrant greens, and just needs a crisp salad to accompany it.

If asparagus isn’t your thing, you can use this recipe as a base and make it with any veg you would usually put into a risotto.

Orzotto primavera

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • Splash veg oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 180g pearl barley
  • 1.4 litres vegetable stock (this might vary a little, use it as a guide)
  • 100g asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1cm pieces
  • 80g frozen petit pois
  • 2 big handfuls spinach leaves, washed
  • 70ml double cream
  • 1 handful grated parmesan cheese (vegetarian parmesan-style cheese if veggie)
  • Salt and black pepper


  • In a large saute pan heat the veg oil and then saute the onion and garlic until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the barley, heat until really hot, then add about 600ml of the stock. Keep it at a simmer, and stir frequently, adding more stock gradually whenever it starts to look dry. It should take about 40 minutes and all of the stock, before the barley is tender, but retaining some bite. Use your judgement, you might need a touch more or less stock, which is why you add it gradually.
  • Once the barley is just cooked and it’s a nice loose consistency, add the asparagus, peas, spinach and cream. Bring it up to a gentle simmer and let it cook for about 10 minutes, so the spinach is wilted, the asparagus is just al dente, and the whole thing is piping hot. Stir in the grated cheese, and season really generously with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately, with a sharply dressed salad.

If you have them, courgettes (diced) and/or broad beans would be delicious added to this – both should be added at the same time as the other vegetables.

To make it vegan, substitute the cream for a plant based cream such as oat.