Grain Risotto with Kale or Cabbage

I love to make risotto with our Mediterranean wheat berries (farro) or with pearl barley. I use the grains on their own or complemented with some rice; in these combinations I prefer to add the long, basmati rice instead of Arborio or medium gran rice.

The cooking is a variation of my usual risotto with leafy greens, but on this occasion I prefer to cook the grains with a more substantial green, like kale or cabbage. 

A few years back we managed to grow some Russian, as well as Tuscan Kale in the garden; but unfortunately we have not been able to grow these wonderful greens again, so I use cabbage for my hearty grain risotto.

See also Kapuska: Cabbage with Ground Meat and Cabbage.




Serves 4-6


1/3 cup olive oil


1 medium onion, thinly sliced


4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced


Salt to taste


2 cups dry white wine


1 pound green or red kale or cabbage: Separate, and thinly slice the stems, and coarsely shred the leaves


1 tablespoon turmeric


3 teaspoons Maras or Aleppo pepper flakes


2 cups pre-cooked pearl barley, farro, wheat berries (see NOTE) OR 1  1/2 cup farro or barley plus 1/2 cup Basmati rice, soaked in water for 3 minutes and drained


1  1/2 cups vegetable broth or water


1/4 cup lemon juice, or mote to taste


2-3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


Fruity olive oil for drizzling


Crumbled feta, or thick yogurt, for serving



In a sauté pan warm the olive oil and cook the onions and garlic for 5 minutes, stirring, until they start to soften. Add salt to taste and 1 cup of the wine to the pan, toss and add the kale or cabbage stems. Toss, cover and cook for 5 minutes.


Add the the kale or cabbage leaves to the pan, toss, cover and let the leaves wilt for 5 minutes. Uncover, add the rest of the wine, the pepper as well as the Basmati rice, if using, and toss, then add 1  1/2 cups warm broth or water, and  the pearl barley or  farro; toss, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the grains are fully cooked. If need be add a bit more broth or water.


Uncover, toss, and add the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in bowls sprinkling with parsley and drizzling with fruity olive oil.

Serve the feta or the yogurt on the side.



NOTE: I always have in my freezer half-cooked grains, as well as chickpeas and beans.

Add one pound pearl barley, farro or wheat berries in a pot, and cover with water that should come about 4-inches above the grains. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 10-20 minutes, or until the grains are almost tender but still hold their shape.

Drain and let cool completely in the colander, then transfer to a zip-log bag and store in the freezer.






One thought on “Grain Risotto with Kale or Cabbage

  1. This is just what I’ve been looking for: quick, healthy ideas for hearty dishes to make when it’s cold outside and the cupboard isn’t full of fresh produce. Five stars!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.