A delightful twist on traditional mushroom risotto using hearty barley, complemented by the richness of baked acorn squash and the vibrant pop of pomegranate seeds. A heartwarming recipe perfect for any winter evening.
This recipe was born out of a happy accident when I was experimenting with alternative grains. It all started with a spelt stuffing recipe that resulted in a delicious, albeit excessive, batch. To use up leftover veggies, I decided to fill an acorn squash with the remaining stuffing and topped it with parmesan cheese, pomegranate seeds, and kale. The outcome was fantastic. I decided to revisit the idea, but this time with mushroom risotto using barley to maintain a variety of flavors in the dish. The result? A delightful blend of creamy and chewy grains, housed within the warm embrace of baked acorn squash, accented with the bright sweetness of pomegranate seeds.
Barley: A hearty grain that brings a creamy chew to this dish while harmonizing with the savory flavors of mushrooms, sage, and rosemary.
Acorn Squash: Baked acorn squash serves as the perfect vessel for the risotto, adding richness and flavor.
Dried Mushrooms: These add a deep umami flavor and rich texture to the barley risotto.
Pomegranate Seeds: These little gems add a burst of brightness and a touch of sweetness to the savory mushroom risotto.
Barley risotto is a wonderful departure from the traditional rice-based version. Using the same method of gradually adding hot broth to the grains and allowing it to be absorbed creates a chewy and creamy, not mushy, bowl of warmth. Baked acorn squash, with its rich and hearty flavor, serves as the perfect container for the risotto. Don’t worry if you don’t have acorn squash; any medium-sized winter squash will work beautifully. To make this recipe plant-based, use vegetable broth and a plant-based cream like cashew cream. Top it off with nutritional yeast or grated macadamia nuts in place of parmesan cheese.
Meal Prep Tips
This peach cobbler topping can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. To use, take out a portion of your filling and warm it up to use on your favorite breakfast. I love to use it on top my brown sugar bourbon oatmeal
Watch Me make it
Barley Risotto Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 1 parchment-lined baking sheet
- 1 medium saucepan
- 1 Sauté pan
- 1 medium acorn squash rinsed
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 1.5 cups barley
- 1/4 cup shallot diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp sage minced
- 1 tsp rosemary minced
- 1 oz dried mushrooms small diced
- 4-5 cups vegetable stock or broth
- 1/2 cup cream (substitute cashew cream for vegan)
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast (optional)
- 2 tbsp parsley chopped
- 1 cup pomegranate arils for garnish
- tt salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 375º. Halve and de-seed an acorn squash. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, place acorn squash flat-side up and drizzle the insides of the squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and maple syrup. season with salt.
- Turn squash halves flat-side down, and bake until soft, about 40 minutes.
- Remove from oven cover, and keep warm until ready for assembly. Baked acorn squash can be cut into quarters if serving as a side dish.
- Meanwhile, prepare risotto. Bring vegetable stock, broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. turn stock to low until ready to use.
- Bring a sauté pan to medium heat. Add remaining olive oil, shallots, and garlic.
- Sauté until aromatic and translucent about 1-2 minutes. Add dried mushrooms to shallot/garlic mixture and season with salt and pepper.
- Fold dry barley into the pan and stir continually to toast grains without burning for about 1 minute.
- After toasting the grains, add your chopped rosemary and sage only enough stock to the mixture to cover the bottom of the pan, about 4-5 oz. Stir to combine, and reduce heat to low, bringing mixture down simmer.
- Repeat as the liquid absorbs, by gradually stirring stock/broth into the risotto mixture about 1/3 cup at a time. Be sure to cover between adding liquid.
- After all stock is added, stir in cream (if using) and cheese/nutritional yeast. Remove from heat before assembling.
- *To assemble:* place acorn squash halves (or quarters), rind side down on plates or serving platter.
- Fill each squash section with hot barley risotto—top stuffed squash with chopped parsley, pomegranate arils and additional herbs/cheese.
- Serve immediately