Butternut Squash Barley Risotto With Spinach And Corn

4 servings
45 min

Take your dinner to the next level with this comforting and healthy butternut squash barley risotto. The nutty flavor of the barley will shine among the smooth parmesan and white wine.

Your family will enjoy the squash and corn's varying texture, and everyone will leave with satisfied bellies.

Besides being a nutritious dish, butternut squash barley risotto is very versatile and adaptable. It works as a main vegetarian (when you crave those filling grains) or a side dish that is not limited to fall and the holiday season only.  

Substitute rice with barley whenever you can, like in this butternut squash barley risotto. I often use it in stuffed peppers, cabbage leaves, and  stuffed onions.

Barley is higher in protein than rice and has more fiber, which helps process cholesterol in the body, but it is not gluten-free.

If you are on a GF diet, then do use rice. Arborio rice is traditionally used for risotto, but you can use Jasmine or Basmati for quicker cooking.

Traditional Italian risotto requires a LOT of hands-on time. Most recipes have you watching the pan of rice, as well as a simmering pot of stock.

You then have to slowly add the stock into the rice a little at a time, stirring pretty much constantly. I don't know about you, but many days I don't have that much time to devote to making dinner.

The pearled barley itself does take 40-50 minutes to cook, but you can use the quick-cooking kind or leave it alone to simmer and keep busy with your other tasks at the same time. Just bring your barley and broth to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and walk away.

Butternut Squash Barley Risotto With Spinach And Corn
Recipe details
  • 4  servings
  • Prep time: 15 Minutes Cook time: 30 Minutes Total time: 45 min
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  • ▢ ½ cup quick-cooking barley
  • ▢ 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth divided
  • ▢ 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ▢ 1 onion chopped
  • ▢ 1 small butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • ▢ 1 garlic clove minced
  • ▢ ½ cup dry white wine
  • ▢ ¼ teaspoon each dried sage and thyme
  • ▢ 1 cup corn fresh, frozen or canned
  • ▢ 3 cups baby spinach
  • ▢ ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ▢ Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ▢ 1 teaspoon lemon zest optional

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté stirring often until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add peeled and cubed squash and sauté for 5 minutes.
Mix in minced garlic and ½ cup wine and cook until wine has evaporated, about 1 minute. Add remaining 1 cup of broth, sage and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer, 20 to 25 minutes or until squash is just tender.
Meanwhile, stir ½ cup of barley into briskly boiling 1 cup of broth. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 10-12 minutes or whatever the package instructions suggest.
Stir cooked barley and 1 cup corn into the skillet with squash. Add 3 cups spinach and ½ cup parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove from heat. Sprinkle with lemon zest and serve with additional parmesan if you like.
  • Cut the squash into consistent pieces so that it cooks evenly.  The smaller you cut the squash, the less time it needs to cook. Check for tenderness by piercing with a fork during cooking. 
  • This dish will last stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Reheat in the microwave.
  • For vegan option, use vegetable broth and omit the parmesan or use nutritional yeast or other substitute.
  • For gluten-free option, replace barley with rice.
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