Recipe courtesy of Brian O'Reilly and Robert Irvine

Vegetarian Barley Casserole with Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pesto

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 35 min
  • Prep: 25 min
  • Inactive: 10 min
  • Cook: 1 hr
  • Yield: 6 servings
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Barley Risotto:

6 cups vegetable broth

1/8 cup canola oil

1 small onion, minced

1 1/2 cups pearl barley, about 1 pound (or use Arborio rice for a gluten-free dish)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup (about 2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

Basil pesto:

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 cup pine nuts, roasted

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (from a jar, or if dehydrated soaked in warm water)

6 sprigs fresh basil


  1. For the risotto:
  2. Bring vegetable broth to a simmer. In a separate large saucepan on an adjacent burner, heat the oil and saute onion until it is translucent. Add barley (or rice) and lightly saute to toast the barley. Add wine and stir for about 2 minutes until it is absorbed. Begin slowly adding broth, 1 ladle-full at a time, to the barley pan, stirring as you go. The friction of the stirring will bring out the starch in the barley. As the mixture absorbs the broth, ladle more into the pot. When all of the broth has been ladled into the barley pot, slowly simmer until barley is soft and creamy. Stir in ricotta to add creaminess, then crumble in goat cheese (to add cohesiveness), stir, cover and set aside.
  3. For the pesto:
  4. Place basil in food processor, add pine nuts and garlic, and pulse until chopped. Scrape into a bowl, add Parmesan and stir in oil to form a thick smooth paste. Add black pepper, to taste.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Spread half of the barley (or rice) mixture over the bottom of a lasagna dish or large casserole. Top with half of the sun-dried tomatoes and then with half of the basil pesto. Repeat for a second layer. Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes, then remove foil and continue to bake for 5 minutes to let top layer of pesto become toasted. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve garnished with fresh basil sprigs.