You say arborio, I say barley

Meatless Monday was delayed to Tuesday this week, but it was worth the wait!

Not sure where I got the idea to use barley instead of rice to make a risotto, but I’m glad I did.  I used the pressure cooker to cook it to a perfect consistency. I made a mushroom version, with the end of the container of mushrooms.

Sauté the mushrooms with a finely diced shallot in one tbsp butter and one tbsp olive oil. When they are caramelized and soft, add a half cup white wine, a cup of barley, and 2 cups of vegetable stock. Add salt and pepper and set the pressure cooker for 12 minutes.

Once it cooled , I tucked it away in the frig till Tuesday. Heat through and once heated stir in a half cup of light cream and lashings of grated pecorino Romano cheese.

The Hubs and I enjoyed the risotto with a salad of greens, roasted golden beets, red pears and a smidge of cranberry covered goat cheese.

The Twelve Posts of Christmas Pt. 9 – Pasta alla Norcina

On The first full day of ” yoga pants vacation”, last Saturday, the Hubs and I were doing our best imitation of Slug 1 and Slug 2. We were channel surfing and came across America’s Test Kitchen on WGBH. We didn’t see the beginning but got sucked in nonetheless and watched Christopher Kimball and his intrepid chefs make Pasta alla Norcina. I think the beginning of the episode featured fresh made sausage, but we are NOT going there…once they assured us we could use fresh ground pork from your grocer’s meat case, I was on the case.

The recipe starts out by having you brine the ground pork. WHOA…yes, you read that right.and here’s the strange part of the brine, it has baking soda in it! Ok, I’ll bite.

And instead of browning crumbled sausage, you make a pork patty, brown the outside and THEN chop it up. It gets cooked in the cream, with some pasta water to thin it out.


The recipe continues by browning mushrooms in the pork leavings, adding white wine and garlic and rosemary, putting the sausage back in and adding a truly obscene amount of cream ( hey, it’s the holidays…). The pork finishes cooking in the cream with some pasta water added as needed. Tossed with the orichiette pasta, some parsley and a little lemon juice.

The reason for the brining is to keep the ground pork from drying out while cooking and the secret ingredient is definitely the nutmeg. This dish really showcases the cuisines of the north of Italy, closer to Austria and Switzerland than the sunny Mediterranean.

Rigatoni d

When I was on the left coast last spring, my bestie L introduced me to Rigatoni d, from Maggianos Little Italy. We bought a pan and feasted on it for much of my trip. I even think I took some in a Tupperware for a snack on the plane…
Anyway, I have had the recipe for forever and finally gave it a go on Friday nite. I had everything for the recipe but fresh herbs, and the original recipe is here


First, sliced mushrooms, diced onions and finely chopped garlic are coated with balsamic vinegar and roasted in a 450 degree oven. Takes about 15 minutes. While they are roasting, cut your chicken and start your pasta water in a big Dutch oven type pot. Mix cold chicken broth with corn starch and set aside.
Melt butter with olive oil in a large sauté pan. Brown the chicken*, add white wine and cook till dry.


Add the Marsala and reduce by half. Add chicken broth and simmer. Reduce and add cream and reduce again.


Ridiculously full of calories….would also make a swell sauce for veal.
I digress…while sauce is simmering, cook rigatoni to al dente, drain and toss with a little olive oil in the large pot. Pour the chicken and sauce onto pasta, toss and put back on low heat for a bit.

Toss some fresh basil and parsley onto each serving and grate some fresh parm on top.

Totally yummy, the recipe will make 4 huge portions! Enjoy!
*in the interest of full disclosure! I used some chicken breasts I already had cooked off