Orzotto (Barley) with Agretti, Shrimp & Oranges

Risotti, orzotti & farrotti.

Rice, barley and emmer wheat cooked in broth to a creamy consistency.   I have yet to familiarize myself with the latter two and there are a lot of ingredients to put together to come up with recipes.  I'm putting aside risotto dishes for a while and focus on orzotti using orzo (barley) and farrotti using farro (emmer wheat), an example of which, farro with pancetta and salsiccia is here.  

Barley and emmer wheat are both very old, I mean ancient, going back to archeological evidences from around 8,500 B.C.

"All the way to the dinosaur age", I fibbed to my son.  

"Really?"   "Really!"  

That got him eating his orzotto.  I know it's a lame excuse to make your child eat and that he would hate me when he finds out the truth.  But for now Mom still wins. 

I was at the supermarket yesterday and I was greeted by the wonderful sight of fresh agretti (friar's beard).  Since their season doesn't last long, I bought a couple of big bunches to try other recipes other than the agretti salad with anchovy & lemon dressing that I recently posted. 
It's my favorite and when you have a favored recipe, you tend to repeat it over and over again until you get fed up.  But I'm the kind of person who never gets fed up of a dish if it's good.  You know, the kind  who has an annoying habit of ordering exactly the same thing and will sit on the same table in a restaurant and declares of ordering something new but always ends up eating the same thing anyway.  What's my excuse?  

This time, I wanted something different.  Really.

I came up with the big idea to put together this orzotto recipe on my own after scanning the pages of my new Slow Food Cookbook, a compilation of traditional regional recipes of reputed restaurants all over Italy.  I had a crash course of orzotti & farrotti and so many other gastronomical things I have never heard of.  600 recipes in all with almost 600 pages without a single picture is not really my idea of an ideal cookbook but Slow Food is to be respected and the recipes are really interesting and use ingredients that speak of quality.  

I wanted to put together something refreshing and light with the agretti and barley so I bought some fresh shrimp to combine with them.  I was toying with the idea of citrus but there was a small percentage of uncertainty holding me back.  If it fails, then I would be eating A LOT of orzotto.  I went for the jump and took the risk. 

A pat on the back, a hug and a heart-warming compliment.  I got all those.  

You can try it too and see that it's quite a good blend.  It gets even better when you leave the orzotto about 20 minutes longer to let it settle with the flavors and for the barley to absorb the excess liquid. 


Orzotto (Barley) with Agretti, Shrimp & Oranges

Serves 4
  • 1/2 teaspoon mild paprika + more for cooking
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt + more for cooking 
  • 1/2 lime, juice only  
  • 750 g. shrimp, shelled and deveined 
  • 300 g. agretti (friar's beard), weighed after cleaning  
  • extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 garlic, crushed 
  • 1/2 onion, chopped finely 
  • 300 g. pearl barley (Soak 24 hours prior to cooking or if using pre-soaked, you can omit this part)
  • 1/2 glass white wine  
  • 750 ml. vegetable broth  
  • 1 orange, zest & pulp cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger 
  • pepper
  1. Mix the mild paprika, salt & lime juice.  Rub the mixture on the shrimp.  Leave for 20 minutes or more.
  2. Clean the agretti under the faucet.  Cut away the roots and any hard part.  Coarsely chop the agretti.  Set aside.  
  3. Over medium heat, in a big, thick-bottomed saucepan, heat the extra virgin olive oil.  Sautè the garlic & onion.  When the garlic changes color, discard.  
  4. Add the barley.  Toast for 3 minutes.  
  5. Add the white wine. Put up the fire to make the alcohol evaporate, about 3 minutes.  
  6. Ladle about 1/3 (just gauge, no need to be precise) of the hot vegetable broth in the saucepan of the barley.  Let it boil in high flame.  Simmer on low - medium fire after it boils.
  7. Keep on ladling the 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. After about 15 minutes of cooking, add the shrimp, agretti, orange zest and ginger.   
  9. Season with paprika, salt & pepper. 
  10. Turn off the fire and let the orzotto rest for about 20 minutes in the saucepan to absorb the liquid more and to make it creamier.  
  11. Meanwhile, drizzle the orange wedges with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt & pepper.  Mix.
  12. Ladle the orzotto to individual bowls. Garnish with the orange wedges.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  13. Serve warm, not hot.