The ancient grain of orzo perlato, pearl barley, is able to grow almost anywhere – from temperate coastal plains and tropical highlands, to sub-Saharan Africa and the sub-Arctic. In Italy it is grown in the cooler mountain regions as well as on the plains from the north to the south. Pearl barley is a great substitute for rice: in fact, not only does this dish look like risotto when finished, it is actually cooked in the same way. This simple-to-prepare dish makes a complete and nourishing meal.






Skill level

Average: 3.2 (291 votes)


  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 150 g minced pork
  • 200 g pearl barley
  • 120 g spinach, roughly chopped
  • ½ glass white wine
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley,finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and pork and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and the pork sealed.

Stir in the pearl barley and spinach and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the white wine and allow to evaporate.

Now gradually add the stock ladle by ladle, waiting until each ladleful has been absorbed before you add the next. Continue until the pearl barley is cooked, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat, mix in the remaining oil and parsley and season with black pepper. Serve immediately.