Orzo, Italian for pearl barley, is one of these underrated highly nutritious grains. Like rice, it releases starch when cooking and is the perfect protagonist for an “orzotto”. As it takes longer to cook than its cousin grain, I like to give it a head start. This is a beautiful warm hearty plate, particularly suited for a Grana Padano Riserva.  

Serves 4

150g orzo or pearl barley

2 tbsp olive oil

35g griotte onion or spring onions, chopped

200g Tuscan sausages

350g pumpkin or butternut squash

1 sprig of rosemary

125ml white wine

About 150ml chicken stock

150g porcini mushrooms, roughly chopped

20g butter

60g Grana Padano Riserva, grated, plus shavings for garnish

2g each sage and parsley, roughly chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Place the orzo in a saucepan. Cover with 600ml of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 25 minutes. Test the grains, they should be soft but still chewy. Drain and season with salt.
  1. In a sauté pan, sweat the onion in one tablespoon of olive oil for a few minutes with a pinch of salt, until soft. Turn the heat up, add the pumpkin or butternut squash and sausage and cook until the sausage turns brown and the squash is slightly caramelized. Add the white wine and let it evaporate. Add barley and stock and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the squash is soft. Add a bit more stock if needed.
  1. Meanwhile in a small frying-pan, pan-fry the porcini in the rest of the olive oil, for a few minutes. Season and add to the orzotto. Then add the butter, Grana Padano and herbs and stir well.

Adjust the seasoning if needed, then divide between the serving plates and top with shavings of Grana Padano.