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06 July 2012

Orzotto con Funghi Porcini, Radicchio & Speck and Tirolo Castle

For me, Europe is synonymous with castles, deep history and diverse cultures.  If I could go back to my studies, perhaps I would have taken up European History instead of a degree that I barely thought of seriously when i arrived at the age of deciding my future.  I had thought of being a pilot like my father but I didn't reach the height limit.  I also wanted to be a veterinarian badly for my deep love for dogs but I can never be one because I cannot stand the sight of blood.   I also thought of being an architect but I am not as sharp-minded as I would have liked to be.  And that leaves me to how I am now.   A food and travel blogger by passion.

Before anything else, let me tell you about this orzottoOrzotto is just like risotto but instead of using rice, barley is the main ingredient.    I like risotto but sometimes orzotto can be a welcome change.  There are some ingredients that go well with orzo (barley) like porcini mushrooms and radicchio.   I see it as a strong dish and that's why it's perfect to eat in the mountains. 

I usually put parmigiano reggiano in almost all our risotti, orzotti, farrotti & pasta but this time, I opted for montasio, a softer and younger cheese from cow's milk from the regions of Veneto & Friuli Venezia-Giulia of Italy.  I bought some at the market the other day and I thought it would go well with this dish. 

I used the ingredients that come from this area.  Dolomite porcini mushrooms, radicchio, speck, red wine and montasio cooked with barley was a delicious combination.  After walking around, enjoying the beauty of the Dolomites, it was nice to come "home" to an equally exquisite treat from these mountains.

Castel Fontana (Schloss Brunnenburg)
The castle at the picture above is called Castel Fontana (Schloss Brunnenburg in German), built in 1241.  It sits on top of the city of Merano, in the outskirts of the town of Tirolo.  From the time it was built, it had changed owners so many times and finally, on 1955, it was bought by the last owners, Boris & Mary de Rachewitz, the daughter of the American poet Ezra Pound.  In the period Ezra Pound spent at the castle, the poet composed the last 6 of his 116 Cantos.  It presently houses the Ezra Pound Center for Literature where students are admitted to take literature programs.

As you go higher on the mountain, Castel Tirolo (Schloss Tirol in German or Tirolo Castle in English) stands majestically overlooking the city of Merano.  It was built in 1140 by the Counts of Tyrol.  Not only did it dominate the town of Tirolo but also the entire region of Tyrol.  It was so important during that time that the area of South Tyrol actually got its name from the castle.   However, this importance ended when the seat of the Counts of Tyrol was moved to the city of Innsbruck.

The region of Trentino-Alto Adige where the Dolomites are, has a very beautiful landscape, with old castles, hamlets and churches dotting the area.  Everything is in two languages, German & Italian, because it was originally a part of Austro-Hungarian County of Tyrol until 1918.  It was annexed by Italy after its defeat during the First World War.  It became an autonomous province in 1948 and for that reason, they can keep the second language as part of their heritage. 

My Dolomites series will be ending soon.  I hope you enjoyed these posts for the past two weeks.   It had been a pleasure showing you the region of Italy that never fails to take my breath away. The culture and the gastronomy are completely different from the rest of Italy and that makes this place a special place to explore.  

Orzotto con Funghi Porcini, Radicchio & Speck

Serves 4
  • 300 g. orzo perlato (pearl barley)
  • 150 g. speck, chopped to thin slices
  • 1 small radicchio or half medium radicchio, chopped
  • 40 g. dried porcini, soaked overnight & drained
  • 1 red onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 glass red wine
  • 750 ml. hot vegetable broth
  • grated montasio cheese or parmigiano reggiano
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh sage
  • extra virgin olive oil 

  1. Toast the speck in a saucepan with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  When they look crunchy, transfer to a bowl & set aside.
  2. In the same saucepan, without turning off the fire, sautè the onion for 3 minutes.  
  3. Add the barley and toast for 3 minutes.  
  4. Pour red wine.  Put up fire to let the alcohol evaporate for about 3 minutes.  Put it back down to medium when it has evaporated.
  5. Add the porcini & radicchio.  Cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Ladle about 1/3 (just gauge, no need to be precise) of the hot vegetable broth in the saucepan.  Let boil in high flame.  Simmer on low - medium fire after it boils.
  7. Keep on ladling vegetable broth little by little and stir frequently like how you would do with risotto.  Barley should cook between 30 to 45 minutes depending on the kind you have.    
  8. Season with salt & pepper.
  9. Turn off the fire and let the orzotto rest for about 10 minutes in the saucepan to absorb the liquid more and to make it creamier. 
  10. Ladle orzotto to individual bowls.  Garnish with toasted speck.  Sprinkle with grated montasio cheese or parmigiano reggiano.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  


  1. Barley is so perfect with porcini mushrooms so I know I will love this dish (though I'll be waiting for the temperature to drop a little before trying it!). Breathtaking photos - I'm ready for you to add tour guide to your list :).

    1. Since the air is a fresher in the mountains, it was wonderful to have it. Tour guide can be another thing to do. :-)

  2. Your photos are breathtaking and I can't stop thinking about going to the market for your ingredients-especially the cheeses you must be choosing from- oh la la!! When was the date of that tour???? I really enjoyed your series on the Dolomites;-) I love your orzotto con fungi porcini dish!

    1. Early July is my favorite period to go to the Dolomites. The tour starts then! It would be fun to take you and Laura around. "-) Thanks Patty!

  3. Wow, the photos of the castle is wonderful. I really admire how much work you put into your posts not just food but history as well, you must get very little sleep :). The recipe looks like a good one, I like barley so this dish does sound delicious.

    1. I always sleep late Suzanne. That's the only time I can get some silence at home and write. :-) The posts do require a bit of research but it's always fun to doing them.

  4. I adore speck!! It was very often part of my lunch when I was living in Torino... Once more gorgeous recipe and photos!

  5. Well, we all go through stages what we wanna be in life, and much like you I went through many different stags. Anyhow..I love barley and often use it instead of the rice. I love the texture! Growing up on the Balkan it gave me the opportunity to try so many cuisines around my former country that actually many brought in and so many dishes kind of stayed for generations to enjoy.

    1. I sometimes crave for the texture of barley. Over rice, it really is a nice change at times.

  6. Beautiful photos! And your orzotto looks amazingly delicious!

  7. This orzotto dish is fantastic, and I just love your vacation photos!

  8. Wow this dish and your trip look & sounds amazing - certainly breathtaking. I can totally see how using barley in place of arborio is a welcome change, it simply looks amazing!

    1. Yes, I think barley is a wonderful alternative to rice and I love it. Thanks!


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