Last week the Pioneer Woman posted a Sundried Tomato Risotto recipe, and in the post she also linked to her Roasted Red Pepper Risotto recipe. Yum. I love risotto, but I had never tried either of those varieties so I put them on my list of things I want to make very, very soon. Since I was planning to make them both, I decided to perform a little experiment.
Although risotto recipes generally call for Arborio rice, I heard once (before I ever made risotto) that you can use barley and it will get just as creamy and delicious as the Arborio. Assuming Barley was healthier, I've just always used that, with great results. This time I decided to get some Arborio rice and use it for one of the recipes so I could compare it with the barley.I made the sundried tomato one first, using the Arborio rice, and it was fabulous. Super delicious. My previous favorite risotto was Ina's Butternut Squash Risotto, but I'm pretty sure this was even better than that. I don't necessarily think the deliciousness was from the rice as much as it was just a really good recipe, although I guess I won't know that for sure until I try it with the barley.The next day I made the red pepper version and I used the barley. It was creamy and perfect, at least until the very end. Pioneer Woman says to add five ounces of goat cheese and a half teaspoon of turmeric (for color) to the risotto once it has finished cooking. I think five ounces was way too much because it completely overpowered the other flavors. I like goat cheese a lot, but "goat cheese risotto" might be overdoing it a bit. Also, the turmeric added a Kraft macaroni and cheese-esque neon color to the risotto that I found unappealing. The kids really liked this, but I wasn't a huge fan. Again though, I think that had more to do with the recipe than with the barley.
Since these results are somewhat inconclusive, I compared the labels of both products to make my final analysis. The barley had, among other things, almost half the calories, five times the fiber, and three times the iron of the Arborio. The only thing the rice had on the barley was protein, with five grams to barley's three. If you also take into account the fact that the rice costs about five times more than the barley, I think that barley is the clear winner in this experiment. Congratulations, barley!And while we're on the topic of Pioneer Woman, I thought I'd share these Coffee Toffee Bars I made last week. They were good and I plan on making them again, but will sub vanilla for the almond extract and sprinkle some Heath crumbles on top. Mmmm, I can't wait!