One-Pot Wonders

A Streamlined, One-Pot Wonder Risotto—the Ottolenghi Way

March 30, 2017

I recently asked a few friends for their back-pocket recipes—the ones that never fail to please, the ones they can make in their sleep. One friend told me she has yet to feed the barley risotto from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem to someone and not have them like it. She also noted that she improvises to account for her varying pantry inventory, and it always turns out well.

Turn these few ingredients into magic Photo by Alexandra Stafford

This all sounded promising. I immediately opened my copy of Jersualem and set to work making a dish I have no idea how I have overlooked—the recipe is not only accompanied by a stunning photograph, but also calls for relatively few ingredients, most of which I always have on hand.

This is the basic process: sauté shallots, garlic and celery until soft, then add the barley, smoked paprika (and a few other seasonings), crushed tomatoes, and broth all at once. There’s no need to add the liquid incrementally as you do when making traditional risotto, and there’s no need to stir constantly either. Ottolenghi finishes the dish with cubes of feta marinated briefly in olive oil and crushed caraway seeds.

One pan, a few steps, and voilà! Photo by Alexandra Stafford

For risotto, it tastes incredibly light, the predominant flavor being tomato with a hint of smoke thanks to the paprika. At the end of the 45-minute simmer, the grains retain a nice chew, and the cubes of feta, folded in gently at the end, soften, holding their shape while lending a slight creaminess.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“For those of you seeking as easier risotto (almost one-pot; definitely little-stir) Cook's Illustrated had a great recipe in their May 2010 issue. I've had fantastic results with many variations on this recipe - mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, saffron, different cheeses.... ”
— arcane54

Start to finish, the dish takes about an hour, prep and all, but once it’s simmering, there’s no extensive hands-on work. I’ve since made the dish several times, and have found a way to simplify the process: I omit several ingredients (butter, celery, fresh oregano, and caraway). I substitute others (barley with farro, because I typically have it, shallots with onions, and vegetable stock with water). I don’t marinate the feta anymore. And I stir in kale or chard at the end to make it more of a one-pot wonder.

Photo by Alexandra Stafford

The essential seasonings here, for me, are lemon peel, whose fresh citrus flavor somehow pervades the tomato base, and smoked paprika, which is subtle enough to keep diners guessing. Thus far, this risotto has been very well received—soon, no doubt, it will slip into back pocket stature.

Have back pocket recipes? Share them here!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • TEE
  • Jill Tennent
    Jill Tennent
  • Nora
  • Jon Davis
    Jon Davis
  • Teddee Grace
    Teddee Grace
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.


TEE May 7, 2020
HI Cooks, yum-yum, looks good, is it possible to download some of these Delicious looking recipes?
Jill T. April 24, 2017
Do you recommend sweet or hot paprika? I didn't realize there were so many varieties!
Nora April 5, 2017
How do people feel when they post a great recipe and others immediately begin to riff on it? Happy, I hope. I made this with spelt, because I had it, and spinach because I had it. Delicious. I can imagine keeping meal-sized portions of the cooked grain in the freezer for quick meals. I think a poached egg, or chicken, or sausage, or shrimp, or Greek olives, or marinate artichoke hearts, or almost anything would keep me riffing forever.
Alexandra S. April 5, 2017
So happy to hear this, Nora! Poached egg sounds so good here. Happy riffing :)
TEE May 7, 2020
thanks, Nora, now I won't go hungry, thanks
Jon D. April 2, 2017
Has anyone made this is their Instant Pot? I'm just learning to use mine...
Teddee G. April 2, 2017
And viola? Who's Viola? The recipe sounds great. The French not so much.
juliunruly April 2, 2017
It sounds a lot better than your pointless snark. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
arcane54 April 2, 2017
Looks delicious! I have some shrimp I was going to add the a risotto Milanese tonight, but this might be my new dinner. For those of you seeking as easier risotto (almost one-pot; definitely little-stir) Cook's Illustrated had a great recipe in their May 2010 issue. I've had fantastic results with many variations on this recipe - mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, saffron, different cheeses....
Alexandra S. April 2, 2017
Thanks for the tip! Sounds like a great recipe. Will check it out.
Terri April 2, 2017
Yes......this sounds incredible but we need to know how much water/broth to use !
I want to prepare this tonight !! Please hurry !!!
Alexandra S. April 2, 2017
Hi Terri,

It's 3 cups of water. Be sure to click over to the recipe, where the instructions

Happy cooking!
Lori April 2, 2017
Click on the recipe button. She explains how much liquid to use in the instructions.
Lori April 2, 2017
Click on the recipe button. She explains how much liquid to use in the instructions.
Susan April 2, 2017
It says 3 cups in the directions.
Fiona B. April 2, 2017
sounds delicious, but as someone who has to be gluten-free, not an option, sadly!
Alexandra S. April 2, 2017
Darn! Do you like arborio rice? I think that will work just fine, but you'll have to add the water incrementally, and you might need more than the 3 cups, but you can just add more as needed.
Fiona B. April 2, 2017
Thanks, I do love arborio rice--just wanted something a little less labor intensive. This sounds wonderful. Maybe I'll try with barley and see how it tastes.
Jenni April 2, 2017
I think that Ina Garten has a recipe for a risotto made with arborio rice, which you cook in the oven, if not there is definitely a recipe out there, actually I've just checked, there are a fair few.
Cheryl C. April 2, 2017
Barley also has gluten
Adrian S. April 3, 2017
You can add 2/3 the liquid in the beginning cook until absorbed than gradually add the Remaining liquid
LynnKK October 15, 2017
Barley is not gluten free.
Kim C. April 2, 2017
You mention in the text that you sub veggie broth for water, but I don't see in the recipe how much broth to use. Could you let me know if you add broth in this recipe. Thx
Alexandra S. April 2, 2017
Hi Kim,
I do use water, and I use 3 cups. Be sure to click over to the recipe for the full instructions:
Evelyn A. April 2, 2017
This sounds amazing, but I can't stand feta!!!! Can I substitute fontina or mozzarella?
Alexandra S. April 2, 2017
absolutely! fontina melts so beautifully, but if you keep it in cubes, it will hold its shape nicely at least initially. And I think those teensy balls (ciliegine) of mozzarella would be great, too.
vivavalencia March 31, 2017
This sounds fantastic but I don't have access to grains like barley or farro... could I use arborio, brown or wild rice? What adjustments might need to be made?
Alexandra S. April 1, 2017
Hey Viva!
I think you might have to add the liquid more incrementally if you use arborio rice, and you may need more, but that will be an easy adjustment — just add the water by the 1/2 cup or so, cook until it's absorbed, add more, and cook until the rice is cooked. Brown rice will take longer and you most likely will need more water. Wild rice might take less time than farro, but I don't know for sure, and I don't know how to advise re time — i'd look at your package and see what they advise re times/liquids.
vivavalencia April 1, 2017
Thank you!!
Denise L. April 2, 2017
Ive made Ina Gartens parmesean rissoto and its baked; no stirring. Just google that to get the gist.
Fresh T. March 31, 2017
Another Ali winner! Thanks so much! I so often lean away from Ottolenghi books because of the massive complexity in most of them. Or at least that's how it seems to my tired brain. I yearn for the flavors, but don't have the stamina day in and day out to cook complicated or long recipes. Thanks again for the wonderful suggestion.
Alexandra S. April 1, 2017
Thanks, Dana!
scott.finkelstein.5 March 30, 2017
Wouldn't this be orzotto?
AnneHD March 30, 2017
Well, since it's made with farro (instead of rice or barley/orzo) : "farrotto" ;)
scott.finkelstein.5 April 2, 2017
Yeah, I obviously commented before getting to the modifications.
Traci Y. March 30, 2017
All in one pot! Love the greens and lemon peel, Alexandra. They elevate the dish!
Alexandra S. March 30, 2017
Thanks, Traci!
Ali S. March 30, 2017
Ali saves dinner, once again!
Alexandra S. March 30, 2017
Oh, Ali! Thank you :)