Pork and Spinach Orzotto

March 1, 2017
Family Verdict:


  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 150g/5½oz pork mince
  • 200g/7oz pearl barley
  • 120g/4oz spinach, roughly chopped
  • ½ glass white wine
  • 1 litre/1¾ pint vegetable stock
  • handful of flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and pork and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and the pork browned.
  2. Stir in the pearl barley and spinach and cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the white wine and allow to evaporate.
  4. Now gradually add the stock ladle by ladle, waiting until each ladleful has been absorbed before you add the next. Continue until the pearl barley is cooked, about 30 minutes. 
  5. Remove from the heat, mix in the remaining oil and parsley and season with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately.


So what, you may ask is an Orzotto? Well, if Wikipedia is to be believed it is a made up word, combining Orzo (italian for Barley) and Risotto - so in short it is a risoto made with Pearl Barley rather than rice. Easy enough. But why replace rice with Barley - well that is a good question too, and the honest answer is I don't know what difference it would make, which is why I tried making this!

The idea came from watching an episode of Two Greedy Italians, a favourite series currently being repeated on the BBC. They were in calabria which I guess is historically a pretty poor area and so this is a kind of peasant food. It was relate to a segment about the (old) Italian family habit of keeping and killing a pig, and some of the uses for its produce. Being a great fan of pigs (and wanting to raise and butcher one a year as in the old days) this peeked my interest. It was also interesting because it does not have dairy in it, as I guess in Southern Italian cooking this is rarer, being more olive oil kind of people. And so it is here - this has no butter or parmesan in it, but is generous with the olive oil.

I made this on a Brownie Day. The youngest two were fed with left over lasagne, so it was just me and the Boy to feed. The quantities here are for 4 (although you can increase the amount of meat if you want more), I left most ingredients the same but did 2/3 of the rice quantity and it was generous for 2 of us.

Replacing rice with Barley gives a nuttier taste and texture (more like brown rice, which is not surprising I guess) and the use of stock and no cheese actually left this feeling a lot lighter than a normal risotto, but just as satisfying - which is a good thing. I would try using this base for other things too now, I think. As a note, I don't typically have an open bottle of white wine kicking around so substitute half a glass of a cinzano/martini type concoction instead. It gives te underlying fruitiness but should be used with caution as too much would be overpowering. Incidentally, the olive oil added at the end is a key ingredient in terms of taste, so try to use a good one here - I had an Umbrian EV one and the peppery taste was just right to complement the earthiness from the pork, rice and spinach - it needs something to lift it from the earth and that did it. Err on the side of too much rather than too little.

Related Posts

Stay in Touch

Thank you! Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form