Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash & Turkey Italian Sausage

Risotto with Fried Sage Leaves


I decided to enter into the world of cooking risotto.  I alway had some mental impression of it being a really unhealthy dish, full of cream and other rich ingredients.  And maybe that’s because every time I’ve eaten it, it’s sat heavy in my stomach.  So for this meal I chose barley.  Even though barley does contain gluten it is wheat free.  I was hoping to find a more unrefined variety than pearled, but unfortunately the store was out.  I wanted to see how a gluten containing wheat free product sat within my body.   The meal sat wonderfully within, leading me to think my sensitivities are with wheat not gluten.

So what is the difference between wheat free and gluten free?  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, oats, barley, rye, and substances made from those products.  Something is wheat-free if it contains no wheat.  But something is gluten-free only if it contains no wheat, oats, barley or rye.  So oats, while they are wheat-free, are not gluten-free.  Basically staying gluten free means cutting out more foods then just wheat, while wheat free may mean just avoiding foods which are high in wheat flour.  I myself tend to forget this, especially oats not being gluten free, so I changed my gluten-free category to wheat-free.

And one more food for thought comment before I share this awesome recipe..  Discovering your body is a beautiful experience.  Finding ‘trigger’ foods is liberating, allowing yourself the knowledge to know what foods make your body feel strong and energized.  I think Americans as a whole lack a certain level of vitality needed to promote a long healthy life.  We blame so much of who we are on outside factors but forget we ourselves have the tools to become the person we want to be inside and out.  This is one of the reasons I love living in Boulder.  People here take action with lots of outdoor activity, community events, and political awareness.  Those who are open to it join in willingly, expanding themselves in ways they never would have thought possible.


  • Butternut Squash
  • Turkey Italian Sausage, 2 links
  • Olive Oil
  • S&P
  • 4 C Vegetable Broth
  • 3 C Water
  • Onion, minced
  • Garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 C Barley
  • 1 C Dry White Wine
  • Pecorino Romano, fresh grated
  • 1 T Fresh Sage, minced
  • Nutmeg, few fresh grates ~1/8 t
  • Sage Leaves
  • Butter

Barely, Roasted Squash, Onion, White Wine, Pecorino Romano, Sage, Nutmeg, & Garlic

1. Prepare butternut squash.  Peel, deseed, and chop into small cubes.  Place squash in a roasting pan, coat lightly with olive oil, season with s&p, and roast in a 425° oven for ~30 until tender.

Roasted Squash

2. In a pot add the veggie broth and water.  Bring to a low simmer and cover to keep warm.  It is important to add hot stock, not cold, to the barley/rice during the cooking process.  Adding cold broth to hot barley/rice results in a hard, uncooked kernel in the center of the grain.

3. In a dutch oven, I used my cast iron, heat up a bit of oil over medium heat and add the onion.  While the onion is cooking remove the casings from the Italian sausage.  Add the Italian sausage in small pieces to the onion.  Continue to cook until the meat is almost cooked through and add the garlic.  Mix well and continue to cook.

Onion, Sausage, and Garlic

4. Once the meat is cooked through add the barley, still over medium heat, and cook until lightly toasted and aromatic, about 5 minutes.  Turn heat to low.

Barley toasted, Wine added

5. Stir in the wine and continue to cook until completely absorbed, ~2-5 minutes.

Wine absorbed

6. Stir in 2/3 of the roasted squash and 3 cups of the heated broth.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed.  The bottom of the pan will be dry.  This takes about 25 minutes.

Squash and Broth added

Almost all absorbed

7. Once all the liquid is absorbed stir in another 2 cups of warm broth and the rest of the squash.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed.  This will take another 15+ minutes.

8. After round two of the broth is absorbed try the barley.  If it is still not quite tender enough add more broth about 1/2 cup at a time cooking until absorbed before adding more.

9. Once desired doneness of barley is reached and liquid is all absorbed turn off the heat.  Add the sage, nutmeg, fresh pepper, and pecorino romano.  Mix well and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Ready to Eat!!!


For an added little bonus serve with some fried sage leaves.  Frying the sage leaves completely mellows out the flavor of the sage and adds a nice little zing to your meal.

1. Melt butter in a skillet.

2. Once butter has melted and started to bubble add the sage leaves and fry on both sides until crispy.

3. Top dish with crunchy sage leaves (see first picture of post).

These were awesome, we made ten leaves between the two of us an I wish I had fried more!

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