Parmesan Risotto with Wheatberries and Morel Mushrooms

Parmesan Risotto with Wheatberries and Morel Mushrooms Recipe

My husband Lulu was craving risotto lately. Unfortunately, risotto can be pretty rich, which doesn’t exactly mesh well with our exercise routine. I don’t think exercising should be a form of punishment, so I took Lulu’s craving as an opportunity to be creative.

After thinking about it, I decided to make mushroom risotto using fresh morels. I chose morels because they are packed with flavor. Instead of using heavy cream and other calorie-packed ingredients, I let the mushrooms provide most of the flavor in the dish. I also added wheatberries to the Arborio rice for texture. Just make sure to soak the wheatberries overnight, so that they aren't too chewy.

Fresh Morels


Yields: 6 servings

½ cup wheatberries
2 sprigs thyme
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
3 ounces fresh morel mushrooms
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons heavy cream (I used water)
3 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium vegetable broth, warmed for 2 minutes in the microwave
1-½ teaspoons salt
1-½ cups Arborio rice
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
6 ounces parmesan cheese, freshly shredded
3 tablespoons curly parsley, finely chopped


A day before...

For the wheatberries: Wash the wheatberries thoroughly, cover with water and soak overnight. Drain and remove as much water as possible. In a deep saucepan, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil. Add 1 sprig of thyme; cook until fragrant. Add the wheatberries. The oil should coat all the grains. Add 1-½ cups water and stir constantly. Bring to a boil, cover the pan with a lid and lower the heat to a simmer for about an hour. Season with salt. Check the liquid and add more water if necessary if all the liquid is absorbed.

Cooking the morels:

Trim the ends. Delicately brush the mushrooms. In a bowl, dissolve the vinegar in water and rinse the morels 2-3 times. Pat dry on paper towels. Coarsely chop them. Set aside.

In another pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the minced garlic and cook until golden. Add the other sprig of thyme and the morels. Cook for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add cream (or water) and cook for 5 more minutes. Transfer to a platter.

Making risotto:

In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the Arborio rice. Make sure that each grain is coated with butter. Stir until light translucent. Add 1 can of warm broth. Stir constantly.

After bringing the liquid to a boil, add paprika, red chili powder, 4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese and lower the heat to medium-low for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cooked wheatberries and 1 tablespoon of parsley. (I also use the stems, because that's where the flavor is strongest.) Season with salt and pepper. Check the liquid and periodically add ¼ to ½ cup of broth (and water when all the broth is used) when all the previous liquid is absorbed. Let simmer for another 15-20 minutes.

When the risotto is almost cooked, add the morel mushrooms. Check the seasoning and add salt (if necessary) and pepper. Add the rest of the butter. Stir well. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme. Finish with the rest of the parmesan.

Serve warm, sprinkled with parsley.

Bon appétit!


You can also use chicken broth, which is actually the more usual way to prepare risotto. My husband is a vegetarian so I use vegetable broth.

To get a cheesy flavor and yellow color, add the parmesan, paprika and red chili powder right after boiling the broth.

It's important to keep adding warm stock as the rice cooks. The key is to add the liquid incrementally and never let the dish dry out, or the rice at the bottom will burn.

For this dish, I used exactly 6-½ cups of liquid. The quantity of liquid may vary depending on the heat of the stove and how long you're cooking the rice. At the end, I let it simmer uncovered, sometimes adding another ¼ cup of liquid until I achieve the right consistency and level of doneness. I like the rice al dente, not too mushy.

You can make a vegan version by substituting vegetable margarine or some oil for the butter.

Coating each of the grains of rice and wheatberries in oil prevents them from sticking to one another.

Wheatberries Recipe with Picture

To ensure homogenous texture of the risotto, I pre-cooked the wheatberries.

If you like other types of cuisine, check out the Indian equivalent to risotto called Biryani. It's a saffron-flavored basmati rice. You can also check out the Asian equivalent with Cantonese-style fried rice.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on June 29, 2010.


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