Barley primavera

Honouring the first crop of spring vegetables!

Each spring, the sight of the first new crop of vegetables sets my heart all a-flutter. My head swims with recipe ideas as I spy freshly-harvested asparagus, fiddleheads, wild garlic and more at local farmers’ markets. One of my favourite ‘first veggies’ dishes is pasta primavera, blending a garlicky, cheesy cream sauce with loads of lightly-sautéed vegetables. It occurred to me the other day that cooked barley might make a great base for primavera sauce, and, as it turns out, I was right! I’ve written before about barley’s great nutritional benefits and I have to say, I actually enjoyed this dish more than the linguine version I fed to my doubting family. The tender barley lapped up the sauce beautifully and I felt happily full for many hours afterwards. It would be delicious with any combination of sautéed vegetables – the more, the merrier!


  • 1 cup (250 mL) pot barley, rinsed
  • 2 shallots, minced*
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) white wine
  • 2 cups (500 mL) heavy (35%) cream
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) finely chopped parsley
  • 1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 8 small mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 12 spears asparagus, tough ends removed; cut remainder in ¾ inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh or frozen green peas
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) white wine
  • additional parmesan for grating or shaving as a garnish

*Note: this dish is best made with true shallots, not green or cooking onions.


  • Put the barley in a sieve and rinse with cold water. Put barley in a large pot and add several inches of cold water (enough to cover the barley by at least 2 inches). Cover and place over high heat; as soon as it comes to a boil, turn it down so it is just barely simmering.
  • Simmer the barley until it is tender; about 45 minutes. Drain and return to the pot and cover to keep warm.
  • While the barley cooks, make the primavera sauce. Start by melting the butter on medium heat in a medium pot then add the minced shallots and garlic. Sauté until just tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the white wine to the pan and let it bubble away till the wine is almost gone (3 – 5 minutes).
  • Add the cream and adjust heat so it boils gently for a few minutes; the cream should thicken slightly.
  • Add the grated parmesan; taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • When sauce is complete, sauté the vegetables. Start by heating 2 tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan.
  • Add asparagus, carrots, mushrooms and zucchini. Sauté over medium heat till all vegetables are just barely tender (3 – 4 minutes), stirring often.
  • Add 3/4 of the cooked vegetables to the cream sauce, reserving the rest for garnish.
  • Add peas and white wine; sauté for 1 minute more, increasing heat so wine evaporates.
  • To serve, divide barley among four serving bowls (broad soup bowls are ideal).
  • Top with sauce and then divide reserved vegetables among the four bowls, arranging attractively on top.
  • Garnish with shards of parmesan and a bit of chopped parsley.

Serves 4.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

4 thoughts

  1. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now
    each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

    Thank you!

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