Looking for a hearty and nutritious alternative to risotto with a Scandinavian twist? This Springtime Rye-sotto with Leeks, Peas and Bacon is made with whole rye berries and is SO delicious and satisfying.
If you've never cooked with rye berries before, you are in for a treat. They are easy to prepare and can be made several days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. Rye berries are wonderful in salads and soups, and make an excellent creamy risotto-style supper like this one.
Why This Recipe Works
This recipe for Rye-sotto with Leeks, Peas and Bacon is:
- Simply prepared with wholesome, nourishing ingredients
- Comfort food you can feel good about
- Complex in texture and flavor
- Rye berries are the whole grain form of rye, much like a wheat berries are the whole grain form of wheat. The rye berry has a nutty, earthy flavor and is pleasantly toothsome yet tender when cooked. You can find them at many natural grocery stores and online at Amazon. Interest in learning more about rye? Check out my Essential Guide to Cooking and Baking with Rye for a primer on the basics.
- Leeks, garlic, bay leaf and thyme provide aromatic and fresh herb flavor.
- Bacon is a perfect compliment to the the sweet leeks and peas and provides a welcome, meaty element to the dish.
- White wine deglazes the pan and adds just the right amount of acidity.
- Chicken broth helps create a creamy, rich base for the rye-sotto.
- Frozen peas bring springtime vegetable sweetness and pleasant texture.
- Parmesan cheese elevates the creaminess even further and brings everything together.
How To Make This Recipe
- First, prepare the rye berries. This can be done a few days ahead of time (store the cooked rye berries covered in the refrigerator). Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rye berries and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring back to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the rye berries are tender but still toothsome, about 45-50 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Next, Cook the bacon in a medium saucepan until brown and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Leave about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan and discard the rest.
- Add the leeks and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for an additional minute.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine and cook, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon, until the wine is nearly evaporated. Add the chicken broth, bay leaf and cooked rye berries back to the pan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until thick and saucy, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the bacon, peas, and parmesan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the peas have warmed through and the cheese has melted, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
- Be patient when cooking your rye berries. Mine are usually pleasantly toothsome in 45-50 minutes, but sometimes they can take a little longer. Continue to cook, trying them every 5 minutes or so, until the texture is just how you like it.
- Leeks grow in sandy soil so it’s important to take the time to rinse carefully between each layer. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse thoroughly under running water before cutting into thin slices.
- The rye-sotto will continue to absorb moisture after it is done cooking. If the mixture becomes too thick, simply loosen it by adding a little more water to the pan.
Traditional risotto is made with arborio rice and is stirred constantly as it cooks so that the starch in the rice is released to create a creamy final dish. Rye berries are not starchy in the way that arborio rice is, and rye berries take considerably longer to cook than rice. For that reason, this recipe calls for cooking the rye berries first and then creating a risotto-like dish from the cooked rye berries. It isn't quite as creamy in texture as a traditional risotto, and the rye berries are heartier and more substantial than arborio rice grains.
Rye berries can be purchased at organic/natural grocery stores, sometimes in the bulk section. I buy mine at Natural Grocers. If you can't find them at your local grocery store, you can purchase them on Amazon.com. They will keep for at least 6 months tightly sealed in your pantry (even longer in the freezer) so feel free to buy rye berries in bulk.
Instead of rye berries, you could used cooked barley (hulled or pearl), farro or wheat berries.
Yes. Omit the bacon and use 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil to cook the aromatics instead. If you want it to be vegan, you will also want to omit the parmesan cheese.
Make rye-sotto cakes! SO delicious. Use this recipe for barley risotto cakes and substitute rye-sotto for the barley risotto.
If you want to make this rye-sotto partially ahead of time, simply cook the rye berries, drain them and store the rye berries in tightly-sealed container in the refrigerator until you are ready to continue with the recipe. Rye berries will keep for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
Now that you have rye berries in your pantry, this rye-sotto is just the beginning! Check out these other delicious True North Kitchen recipes for rye berries:
I hope you will give this Springtime Rye-sotto with Leeks, Peas and Bacon a try sometime soon! It makes a hearty side dish with something like roast wonderful light supper on its own
Springtime Rye-sotto with Leeks, Peas and Bacon
- 1 cup rye berries rinsed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 slices of bacon diced
- 1 leek white and light green parts only, rinsed thoroughly and sliced thin
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- ¼ cup white wine
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- ½ cup frozen peas no need to defrost
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add rye berries and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the rye berries are tender but still toothsome, about 45-50 minutes. Drain the rye berries and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, cook the bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the bacon fat in the pan. Remove and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pan. Set the bacon aside.
- Add the leeks to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 more minute.
- Add the white wine and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan and cook until the wine has nearly evaporated. Return the rye berries to the pot. Add the chicken broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the mixture has thickened but is still saucy in consistency, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the peas, cooked bacon and the parmesan and stir to combine. Continue to cook until peas are heated through and cheese has melted, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.
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