Marvelous Mussel Risotto

Leading nicely on from my last post where I waffled on indulgently about my Yotam Ottolenghi Obsession, I wanted to share with you a recipe that has been born directly out out of said love affair.

I picked up some mussels which are in season right now and therefore incredibly affordable, and I was deliberating how best to use them when my mind wandered off to Ottolenghi, as is often the way these days, and I was inspired by one of the recipes from Jerusalem.

A few weeks ago I cooked the Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta and I loved it. It was my first ‘barley’ risotto and I really enjoyed the texture and size of the grains; it made a really interesting variation to arborio rice. I had some barley left in the cupboard and so an idea began to form.

A Barley & Mussel Risotto sprang to mind. But how to spice it? I was tempted to go down the curry route, perhaps a little coconut milk. But I didn’t want it to just taste like a Thai curry with barley instead of rice. And I quite like my Thai curries to be very saucy, almost soup like with oceans of spicy broth. That would not do at all for a risotto, it would just be soggy.

Then I toyed with using more Indian spices and perhaps a dollop of yogurt. I really like this idea and may yet experiment with it but I am not a spice master and so was a little hesitant. It’s an idea I shall file away for a later date.

Finally, as I was rummaging around in my fridge, I happened upon a tin of anchovies and just like that, I knew what to do. (I can rarely fight the power of the anchovy I love them so)

Pasta Puttanesca is a real favourite, rich with tomatoes, capers, garlic, chilli and anchovies. The flavours are really powerful and yet so simple. I knew they would work well with the mussels and why not use them in a risotto. Especially as this would be a barley risotto, which doesn’t have the creaminess of conventional risotto which would not work so well with these strong salty tastes.

So taking tips from Ottolenghi, I cooked the barley in chopped tomatoes, passata and stock. I then added my take on Puttanesca flavourings; garlic, capers, chilli flakes and anchovies. I separately cooked my mussels in some white wine which I drained off and added to the risotto also, and let it all bubble away until the barley was soft and plump.

At the end, I stirred through the mussels. The resulting risotto was a huge success, chunky barley with soft mussels swathed in a pungent rich tomato and fish sauce. I adore all the individual elements of this dish so for me, putting them all together was guaranteed to please (well me at least!)

Mussel Puttanesca Barley Risotto

Serves 2 greedy people

  • 200g Barley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp of capers
  • 1 tin of anchovies, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes (add more if you like it hotter)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml passata
  • 700ml fish stock
  • 500g mussels
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot chopped
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • chopped parsley to serve


  • First of all, prepare your mussels. Pull off any beards or barnicles and generally clean then up. Discard any with cracked shells or any which remain open after a firm tap on the shell as they are no good.
  • In a saucepan with a lid, throw in your 1 chopped shallot, garlic and white wine. Once heated a little, tip in your mussels and close the lid. Give the pan a shake once or twice during cooking and leave to cook until all the mussels have opened. This does not take long – 5-8 minutes.


  • Drain your mussels into a bowl but keep the juices that they were cooked in.
  • Set your mussels to one side and make a start on your risotto. In a large pan, heat your butter and olive oil. Add the shallots and celery and fry until just softening. Then add your garlic, chilli flakes, capers and anchovies. Help break up the anchovies with a wooden spoon. Cook for 4 minutes until soft and the anchovies have melted down.

Onions, anchovies, celery capers

  • Then pour in your barley and stir to coat with all the butter and oil. Add the chopped tomatoes, passata, mussel cooking liquor and the stock all at once. Stir and bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer and leave for 45 minutes. Stirring occasionally to stop it sticking.

Barley Risotto

  • Meanwhile, remove the mussels from their shells leaving a few for garnish. When there is just 5 minutes cooking time left for the risotto, stir through the mussels just to reheat them gently.
  • Serve in big bowls sprinkled with parsley.
Barley Puttanesca Mussel Risotto
I am entering this dish into Simple & In Season this month as mussels fit the bill. Hosted this month by Lou from Chez Foti and Ren Behans challenge.
Simple & In Season Logo
And I am also entering it into this months One Ingredient challenge co-hosted by Laura from How To Cook Good Food and Nazima from Franglais Kitchen. This months ingredient was chilli.
One Ingredient Chilli

8 thoughts on “Marvelous Mussel Risotto”

  1. Yes please! Love puttanesca, love mussels, love risottos. Have never made a barley risotto but am so going to try with this exact same recipe! Sounds heavenly. And thanks for entering it to Simple and in Season.

    1. My pleasure Lou. I knew you’d love this one after your Puttanesca Pizza 🙂 I had to buy Barley at the local English shop but hunt and you shall find I am sure x

    1. Hi Fiona. I think ‘Barley’ risotto is wonderful and really interesting. Bit hard to find here in France but I got mine at the local English shop so it can be found. Let me know if you do make a risotto with it, I would love to know what you think. x

  2. Hi Anneli, I’ve been having a couple of Ottolenghi dishes this week, thanks to my mother. They’ve been enjoyable, although I can definitely see some places where I’d make some changes (he uses mozzarella for example in one dish, where something like feta would work much better since mozz. is just so darn bland.

    Great looking risotto – love mussels. Usually just cooking them in a simple white wine sauce, but I might venture into something more daring like this next time 🙂

    1. Hi Charles. Not bowled over by Ottolenghi yet then? Nothing wrong with making a few tweaks and I know what you mean about mozzarella. Thanks re:risotto. I love mussels pretty much anyway they are cooked and being in season right now makes them a bargain!

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