mushroom and barley pie

“So it’s a pie?”
“Well, it’s pie-like. I mean, it has a bottom crust and a top crust and it is filled with stuff. So yeah, pie.”
“With farro?”
“No, we have had barley sitting in the pantry for like a year so we’re going to eat that first.”
“And it has mushrooms and ricotta in it!”
“And bacon?”
“Ew, no. It’s a vegetarian Thanksgiving entree.”
“Can we have bacon on the side?”

barley, freefallingpile of creminimushroom barley ricottaegg washed

Anyway, perhaps if you don’t live in my apartment, you would be really excited to make this. I mean, I know I was. And lest you think Alex doesn’t like mushrooms and barley and vegetarian dishes, it is entirely not the case. But I have to admit, this is a wonderful dish (he’s eaten the leftovers, twice!) but it needs… something.

mushroom barley pieoh dufour

Something like olives or sundried tomatoes or or… there is something quite flat-tasting about it and all the salt and pepper in the world wasn’t enough to give it the dimension it needed.

“Like bacon?”

Gah. The things I must endure.

mushroom and barley pie

One year ago: Pie Crust 101 [Pie Crust 102, coming soon!]

Mushroom and Barley Pie
Gourmet, November 2008

As I mentioned above, we really enjoyed this but agreed it needed some “punching up” in the flavor department. Perhaps a 1/2 cup of chopped olives or 1/4 cup capers or sundried tomatoes? We never came to a specific conclusion, but I welcome your suggestions, and if you make it, what worked for you.

By the way, wouldn’t this make the most darling giant leaf pie?

Serves 8

3/4 cup pearl barley or farro
3 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
9 scallions, finely chopped (1 1/3 cups), divided
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry Madeira (preferably Verdelho or Sercial)
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 (1-pound) package frozen all-butter puff pastry, thawed (if you can get DuFour, it will be worth every extra penny–promise)
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt

Make filling:
If using farro, cover it with cold water in a bowl and soak 30 minutes, then drain in a colander, discarding soaking water. Bring farro, water (3 cups), and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.

If using barley, no need to soak it. Simmer unsoaked barley in 6 cups water with 1/4 teaspoon salt for 45 minutes. Drain.

While barley or farro cooks, melt butter with oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then cook garlic and half of scallions, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add Madeira and simmer 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and stir in barley or farro, then cool completely.

Stir in ricotta, remaining scallions, and salt and pepper to taste.

Roll out pastry while filling cools:
If pastry is in 1 piece, cut into 2 equal pieces. Roll out each piece on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch square. Stack squares on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet with a second sheet of parchment between them, then cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes.

Assemble and bake pie:
Put a large baking sheet on rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400°F.

Set aside top square of pastry on parchment. Spread cooled filling evenly over pastry on baking sheet, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush border with some of egg wash, and, using parchment, invert second square on top, lightly pressing to seal border. Brush top with remaining egg wash, then crimp border with a fork and trim with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.

Cut a few small steam vents in top of pie and decoratively score pastry. Slide pie on parchment onto preheated baking sheet in oven and bake until puffed and deep golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Do ahead: The filling can be made and pastry rolled out 1 day ahead and chilled. Or, you can assemble the pie up to three hours ahead of time and chill it uncovered until you’re ready to bake it.

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182 comments on mushroom and barley pie

  1. Caithness

    yummy. this is perfect, i live in toronto and my friend asked me over for thanksgiving, she celebrates the american date for some reason (although she is Canadian!) and i think this will be a great dish to bring!

  2. steve in texas

    take spinach and drag it through the breakfast bacon grease. lay the spinach on the pastry to protect it (pastry) from the moist filling.

  3. Amanda

    I’d suggest adding one of the following to give the mushrooms some kick along:
    fresh or dried thyme
    Mushroom soy sauce
    oyster sauce – just enough to give depth, not enough to make Chinese
    port in place of madeira – my fav way to give a boost – great in gravy
    maybe some soaked porcini or shiitake, and add soaking water to port/madeira.
    My 2 cents worth, given current conversion rate probably amounts to not much anyway.
    Keep up the great work Deb! oh, and Alex too.

  4. Ellen

    i would maybe try replacing some of the farro/barley with wild rice, cook the grains in vegetable broth, replace the scallions with leeks, and add some more spices (thyme? parsley? cumin? sage?). i would also consider adding other cheeses, but then again i add cheese to anything!

  5. Cool, I was thinking of making that, and it looked a bit flat! Thanks so much for saving me the bother!! I never understand when a recipe is a starch and a starch, like butternut squash lasagne, or this adding farro in addition to pastry.

  6. I’ve made something similar to this for the past two years for Thanksgiving (I’m a vegetarian).

    I agree to replacing the scallions with leeks. Also, my recipe uses lentils cooked in vegetable broth–I understand you wanted to get rid of the barley, but perhaps you could try this method next time. I also put in some chopped walnuts.

    1. Sandy

      Adding a new comment after a decade after your post!! I think adding fresh shiitake mushrooms (which I would pan fry in butter or olive oil until it browns as that makes the shiitake taste like bacon!) would bump up the flavor factor a notch. I would sprinkle porcini mushroom powder or add rehydrated porcini. I agree also go with the leeks and squeezed out spinach for additional depth.

  7. I made this the other day and we rather enjoyed it. I added a lot of spinach to the mixture (sauted then squeezed out the liquid), heckuvalotta parsely, and some more white wine. I also mixed in white button mushrooms with the cremini, but was thinking some reconstituted porcini mushrooms would have made a nice earthy addition. I agree the base recipe should be punched up, but there are a lot of neat directions to take it!

  8. I could see it being a little plain, but the basic recipe template is certainly there. Mushrooms and barley are a wonderful combination, I would say some sauteed spinach would be wonderful inside, but I think the flavor should come from some thyme and sea salt considering that all the flavors (mushrooms, barley, spinach and ricotta) are all fairly delicate (or weak).

  9. Marielle

    how about anchovies? Not veggie (although I’m laughing at the bacon comment) but possibly that bit of dimension needed. I’m glad to see grungy sheet pans (saying that in a positive way). I’m tired of looking and brand new looking sheet pans on TV shows when I know that the stuff on my own pans will not scrub off with anything. Never trust a cook with shiny pans. ;)

  10. Whoa! All of your photos are beautiful but the first one is exceptionally so! Knowing me, I’d probably caramelize the heck out of some onions and maybe add a little balsamic vinegar to this. It looks great!

  11. LC

    Hmmm. Some veggie sausage (Morning Star), leeks instead of scallieons, wild rice instead of barley or maybe a mix of the two, and some sort of seasoning sage might work. It’s definitely a bland recipe by the looks of it but it does seem like it has a good basic structure to it.

  12. Susan

    I agree with looks like it’s missing something..As several posters noted..I would caramelize the onions, add thyme and use Port wine. I would also do a Michael Chierello thing, and pan brown the mushrooms in a dry pan on high heat to caramelize them well without them losing all their moisture. Maybe I’d think about some spinach, but not sure about that. I think it’s the ricotta that is blanding it out too much. Maybe add some gorgonzola or stilton or something to it, to punch it up?
    It’s too pretty to be disappointed by a bland filling.

  13. Marika

    dill seasoning is good and perhaps just a flash of balsamic. beautiful shots. I definitely making this! Some dry shitakes in additional to all that as well, soaked of course. I like the caramelized onion idea too!

  14. I don’t see a link or anything on your site, but do you have a cookbook? Or even, have you considered it? It’s lovely and refreshing to see your site, but I think having a material book (or 10) would be lovely.

  15. I have made a similar pie before using wheatberries. My additions would be wilted swiss chard, golden raisins, toasted chopped walnuts, and some feta or parmesan cheese (in addition to ricotta). That should brighten up the flavors and textures. On its own, I can see why this would be a bit blah….beautiful pictures though (as always). Love your blog!

  16. rachael

    I would try adding some lemon zest to add some nice punch without overwhelming it, and maybe replacing the garlic with roasted garlic- and more of it! Still, this looks beautiful and delicious.

  17. That looks absolutely yummy!! I have mushrooms but I don’t have barley at the moment. Would I be able to substitute bulgur or quinoa for it? Otherwise, I’ll get the barley. :)

  18. These are definitely going on my to-do list–but I’ll probably turn them into individual turnovers instead of one large one. I’m going to suggest more onions (perhaps white or yellow in place of scallions)–1 large for the amount of mushrooms/barley used, and also some thyme or better yet, marjoram, and lots of parsely; some fresh chopped sage might also do the “trick”; cooking the barley in a rich veggie broth (or “better than bouillon” veggie base would probably enhance the overall flavor, but you’d need to cut back on the salt then. I like the suggestion above of adding greens and cheese.

  19. Liz

    I make the same shaped pie with a different filling – cooked slices of potato, leeks cooked in butter for 10-20 mins, grated cheddar cheese and creme fraiche – its delicious and even my husband who is also a meat lover doesn’t need any meat on the side with this pie!

  20. JC

    I’m thinking a really great GOAT CHEESE would be a lovely substitution for the ricotta. I agree with someone else’s suggestion of substituting leeks for scallions. I would probably also do a comibation of mushrooms, most of which would likely be porcini. We’re friends.

    Great pictures!

  21. I can imagine liking this just the way it is, it looks so yummy :)… If you want to spice it up a bit, maybe like you said sundried tomatoes or spinach would be a good idea.. I’d probably add more salt too. I can’t imagine it with olives though.
    Thanks for the recipe! :)

  22. I definitely want to make this! I’ve been having trouble finding DuFour puff pastry, but I know it has got to be out there somewhere in St. Paul, MN… I refuse to purchase anything that wouldn’t be all butter.

  23. jeannie

    I make something similar to this but start with a mirapois and add herbs de provence – I use brown rice in mine, with finely chopped walnuts, and no cheese, but it’s very good. I agree that spinach sounds good too. And I use some fresh and some dried mushrooms, either porcini or shitakes – the dried ones add a good texture as well as flavor.

  24. Grace

    I vote for parmesan and / or tomato paste as additions to give this some depth. Some herbs like parsley, thyme, and basil would also be good. These ingredients are all very successful in the mushroom-based recipe for vegetarian Moussaka that was first printed in The Original Moosewood Cookbook and recently adapted by Savuer.

  25. sage? sautéed apple?
    1 small chicken liver?
    (actually not kidding about that last one—it’s an essential part of my fiancé’s family’s stuffing recipe. As long as there’s not too much it’s just EXACTLY what’s needed.)

  26. wendi

    Deb, can you clarify whether barley would be soaked or not? Filling Step 1 says to soak. Step 2 says to cook unsoaked.

    I will be adding bacon, wilted fresh spinach, and nutmeg and making these as hand pies for Turkey Day.

  27. Can’t go wrong with mushroom, barley and buttery puff pastry goodness. I liked the red bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes and olive suggestion. How about:
    – an asian twist: ginger, scallions, tamari
    – or some peppery greens (watercress?), leeks or parsley
    – perhaps swap the ricotta for goat cheese or gouda
    – swap barley for wild rice or kasha and walnuts- something unexpected and crunchy

    oh the possibilities :-)

  28. Debby

    My main objection to this recipe is the soaking. I don’t want to soak! However, I sometimes use pearl barley without soaking.

    As for the idea of “punching it up…” I don’t know. Isn’t one of the pleasures in a recipe like this how not distracting (bland is the wrong word here, but I can’t think of the right one) it is?

  29. deb

    Whoops–the barley/farro soaking confusion is cleared up now. Barley doesn’t need to be pre-soaked (though misreading it, I did it anyway). Farro should be. Barley cooks for twice as much time as farro, so it balances out in the end.

  30. Nancy from PA

    I agree…this dish has tons of potential but seems kind of bland at first read. Sauteed mushrooms swoon over dried thyme. Toss a bay leaf and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme in the barley’s cooking liquid. Shallots make everything taste better. Some gently sauteed shallots, carrots and leeks would really beef up the earthy flavors this dish is crying out for. Cooks Illustrated has a technique of caramelizing carrots, onion and celery to make a flavor base for a gravy when you don’t have a roast. Graham Kerr (yep, I’m that old) used to caramelize a spoonful or so of tomato paste in the bottom of a skillet, then deglaze with some sort of flavorful liquid, maybe vegetable broth in this case.
    Hmmm….I’m gonna have to go back over to Wegmans and look for that pastry. Note to self: scallions, cremini mushrooms, ricotta, puff pastry. I wonder if you could substitute sherry for the Madeira?

  31. Nic

    Maybe you could mix some carrots, cabbage and white onion in there. I think some caramelized onions could add some yumminess. Feel free to disagree, I’ve just got mushroom pierogi filling on the brain today.

  32. Karlie

    That’s because it’s not a pie – it’s a giant pasty! Mmmm pasties…albeit pasties usually have meat in them. At any rate, I’m not really sure what you could add. I like neither olives nor capers. What about a really salty cheese of some kind?

  33. seebimull

    Hahah, i laughed out loud reading your bacon story. It is exactly as in our house, i swear! He would put bacon in vanilla icecream too, if id let him. The things i must endure, really :D

  34. YUM! This looks gorgeous. I’m definitely putting this on the “probably” list for food to bring to my boyfriend’s family’s Thanksgiving table.
    Adding bacon would be awesome if his family wasn’t made up of mostly vegetarians!
    (This is what happened when I tried to cook a turkey with the veggie family!)

    I think perhaps olives and/or loads of fresh herbs would turn up the taste dial on this. I’ll continue reading the comments to see what others advise. And maybe puff pastry to dial down the time/work factor? Thanks!!!

  35. Colleen

    When I make mushroom barley soup, I use the Moosewood recipe. It calls for soy sauce but, one time, I didn’t have any so I subbed Worcestershire Sauce and never looked back! It’s got a lot of flavor (reflecting the suggestions of anchovies above) and enhances the steaky-meatiness of the mushrooms. Of course, bacon…

  36. alphie

    What about making the filling and pretending they are pot pies – i.e., only one layer of crust? And adding some celery, carrots and roasted red peppers. It’s too much bland starch!

  37. It seems like sun dried tomatoes would totally do the trick.

    On a completely unrelated note Deb, I have to tell you that I thought of you. This morning I was browsing for shoes on Zappos. That’s when I got in an imaginary fight with Kate Spade for making such lovely shoes at such expensive prices. I just couldn’t justify spending $300 on a cute pair of flats. I thought, would Deb spend the money? Deb knows good food. She must know good shoes. Would she? I talked myself out of the shoes for now. I decided I could live another day without them… just barely. What do you think Deb? $300 for flats?

  38. deb

    I love all these suggestions! Especially the feta, goat cheese, parmesan, mirepoix, celery, etc. ideas. (Perhaps not all together!) Keep them coming. This is too easy to make to not figure out how to make it better.

    Ha Joy — I was debating on Flickr last month whether I had it in me to keep $150 flats from Frye and decided in the end that I did not. NYC streets just shred my shoes, so there’s no point in paying up when I’ll be replacing them in 6 months anyway. (P.S. I still weep a little when I remember those Fryes.)

  39. I’m with Ellen on the wild rice – yum yum. I think exchanging the ricotta for romano cheese or aged paremsaon would add some needed flavor to it (as well as some fresh lemon thyme).

  40. Marian

    I agree, lots of starch and no umami, I’d try using some dried mushrooms and their reconstitution liquid along with that madeira and also adding dried thyme and maybe some rosemary. A bit of strong cheese would help too, I’d try Gruyere. Bacon would be easier though.

  41. I make some mushroom pastries that I used to trade for [expensive things I wasn’t supposed to have]. I made up some puff pastry and wrapped it around just a tiny bit of mushroom filling — an even higher ratio of pastry to filling than this pie. Stinky dried shiitakes reconstituted in wine did the trick, though they’ll never be anything but chewy. But fresh shiitakes have a better texture and aren’t so overpowering; they’re my favorite barley-soup mushroom and would be perfect here.

  42. I like the thyme suggestion, but I’ll echo the folks who suggested a stronger cheese in combo with the ricotta. I love goat cheese with mushrooms. BTW – I made the chocolate peanut butter cake for a baby shower this weekend and HOLY CRAP. So delicious.

  43. Rebecca

    I’m not sure if it would work here, but I like to use smoked cheese or chipotles in vegetarian dishes that seem to call out for something bacon-ish.

  44. vis cult

    I’ve made an individual veggie wellington using dufour puff pastry: bottom layer is a smear of maytag blue, then a layer of steamed spinach that is absolutely free of extra moisture and seasoned with a dash of butter, salt, and white pepper, topped with a layer of caramelized onions and mushrooms with thyme and rosemary, and with a final layer of maytag blue on top. I could easily see the same layers within two puff pastry layers.

    I like barley mushroom thyme combos, sometimes dotted with currants and using very well caramelized diced onions. It might be nice to pump up the taste by having a gravy on the side–worcestershire adds flavor to a brown gravy as someone said upthread, but then it won’t be vegetarian. A cool yogurt sauce dusted with sliced scallions might be nice on some occasions.

  45. I vote for feta, swiss chard and – only because I’m not veggie – good, thick-cut smoked bacon. (I also wonder if in another version, some poblano chilis might be nice to add subtle smokey heat…)

    I’ve been wondering about this recipe. Thanks for posting, Deb!

  46. I don’t think mushrooms and barley are the greatest of combos but they pop up everywhere so someone has to like them. I keep thinking of spinach or chard to give it a nice color and some ‘green’. Maybe a sprinkling of manchego or another dry-aged cheese?

  47. Debbie

    Tarragon and a little dry mustard work well with mushrooms. I make a mushroom turnover for Thanksgiving.Lots of mushrooms,onions,sour cream and spices in a puff pastry. I make one hundred and they are devoured in the first 20 minutes.

  48. Elizabeth

    Just had to comment, this sounds really wonderful, esp. with all the suggestions for punching up the flavor. Honestly, though, you could be living with my husband. If there’s no meat in a dish or a side of meat somewhere, he’s like…um where’s the stuff for the carnivore in the house?

  49. This looks yummy! I think that I’ll include some spinach, sun-dried tomatoes (in a little oil), and maybe even a smidge of goat cheese. And maybe a few pine nuts for some crunch. And maybe a bigger pan to fit all this stuff. ;-)

  50. Barley is delicious and great in tomato/veggie soup. After browning lots of onions, brown some ground beef and with some type of tomato: chopped sundried tomatoes, tomato paste or chopped tomatoes and there will be lots of flavour.

  51. E.J.

    OK, I don’t know where you’d insert this flavor booster…probably in the water (soaking and cooking) with the barley…but black cardamom pods make vegetarian dishes taste smoky delicious, almost like bacon. They’re a little creepy looking, and you must remember to lift them out before proceeding with the recipe, but they do add flavor. Perhaps that and the sundried tomatoes.

  52. Love barley. I make a barley-mushroom risotto that would be great with some ricotta stirred in… I think all my ideas for flavour boosters have been suggested!

    May I suggest another use for your barley though, so that it doesn’t sit another year on the shelf? It requires the same cooking time as steel-cut oats, so you can cook a combination of the two together.I adore steel cut oats and barley for breakfast. Add some chopped apple, sticky brown sugar and toasted nuts…

  53. I love this recipe! I just discovered your blog – I recently moved from NYC to California, but before doing so, lived in a 4th floor walk-up tenement building on 3rd Avenue. Despite the stairs, I miss it. I have many many many fond cooking memories there.

  54. Maxie

    This looks delicious. I’m going to try this for thanksgiving. I would saute some onions, red bell peppers and spinach or chard, plus add some rehydrated dry mushrooms and maybe some pine nuts.

  55. Wow, that looks like the perfect comfort food to enjoy at the end of a blustery fall day. I would definitely add onions, and I like the idea of sundried tomatoes. What about peas? Would they be too chunky?

    I have just discovered your blog, by the way, and I am enjoying it immensely. The conversation at the start of this post reminds me of many I have had with my boyfriend, so I feel ya there!

  56. chavi

    I would caramalize a ton of onions and add leeks and celery. A sharper cheese might punch it up a bit – like parmesan or a peppery pecorino. And a hefty handful of fresh herbs will always do the trick.

  57. Liz

    I actually had been planning on making this Monday night; I’m so glad I put it off! I looked through the comments when I made it last night, and used two largish sauteed shallots, 1 carrot, about 1/4 cup of goat cheese to replace some of the ricotta, and about a 1/4 cup of finely chopped olives; I also left out the scallions. It’s pretty good, and not nearly as bland as I expected the original recipe to be (hence why I put it off in the first place). Thanks to everyone for the suggestions!

  58. I would add a splash or two of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Sort of a cross between soy and worc. sauce, and great in almost anything savory.

    Love, love, love your blog. A thing of beauty is a joy forever!

  59. don

    I want to fill one with extra mushroom stuffing with pieces of turkey or chicken (or both) at Christmas. My family always complains that there’s not enough stuffing and this might fix that in a novel way. I love your cooking and your photographic composition is superb.

  60. rebmarks

    How about chopping up some Fakin’ Bacon you fried in butter? It would add some of the smokey-salty-greasy depth that real bacon would add, and still be vegetarian…

  61. Phoebe

    Do you read the Washington Post food chat on Wednesdays? Someone asked about, I think, this very same recipe and that it was a little boring. They suggested subbing the water for mushroom broth and adding dried porcinis.

  62. Shannon

    I know this may sound odd, but what about adding a can of pumpkin to the filling? I lived in the mushroom capital of the country (PA) for a long time and often came across delicious combinations involving pumpkin and mushroom.

    p.s.– mushroom country is smelly.

  63. kari

    Asparagus and thyme! I’d cook this in veggie broth, and then add asparagus–that is if I didn’t live on the east coast where I cannot get asparagus unless it’s that one week in August…

  64. kari

    oh wait, and maybe also some arugula? i don’t really liked cooked lettuce, but i do really love the way barley and arugula taste together.

  65. Elizabeth

    I didn’t read all of the comments, so something like this may have been suggested already, but…

    We make an “open face” mushroom tart quite often and it starts with caramelizing onions, then adding the mushrooms and fresh marjoram, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Sometimes a dash of balsamic. Then we mix the mushrooms and onions with a mix of Parmesan and goat cheese before topping the puff pastry. Maybe adding some similar ingredients would puch this up a bit? I did see the recommendation of spinach – would be good as long as it is blanched and “wrung out” – adding spinach into items like this has (for us in the past) resulted in really soggy pastry.

    As much as I love olives and capers (seriously, very little I wont try to put these in….) I don’t think they would be right in this recipe.

  66. i really love your site! i too did not read every comment… i did see feta mentioned, but what about smoked gouda or smoked mozarella? it’s the smoky flavor that stands out. either way, it sounds incredible to me as is!

  67. meg

    I’d do a stronger cheese like gruyere and add worchester sauce. I make a similar pie that has those two along with mushrooms and it’s delicious. Worchester sauce is one of my favorites with mushrooms.

  68. had me at barley, then you added in mushrooms..yum! I’m with Alex though, I’d totally add bacon…bacon and mushroom is just a natural pairing. I’d never survive as a vegetarian!

  69. Ryan

    Caramelized onions, with a hearty splash of balsamic, and feta cheese in addition to the ricotta, really punched it up. It was the star of Thanksgiving dinner.

    Thanks for the great recipe.

  70. I’d add some cooked chestnuts (the vacuum pack ones would be great) and maybe some finely chopped walnuts or cashews as well. I think some nuts would really pep something like this up. And herbs – definitely some good robust herbs – maybe rosemary and sage. It looks lovely, I think I might try it!

  71. maria

    Thyme and a good strong cheese: roquefort, parmesan, chevre…the good thing about a timid base recipe is it can really go anywhere! It sounds fantastic. I might have to make that tonight…

  72. carol

    I second the suggestions of spinach and gruyere; i would also add some cubed, cooked winter squash, i.e., sweet dumpling, acorn, butternut. I will most definitely make this dish.

  73. I’ve made this twice using farro, and even made it for Thanksgiving. We love it here with just a minor adjustment: I think the key is to use a combination of flavorful mushrooms, rather than just the creminis. I used 1/2 lb chantrelles, 1/3 lb porcini, and 1/3 lb creminis (yes, this means I used more mushrooms than called for) and I sauteed them each separately and deglazed with madiera after each sautee. I think I used more like 1/3 cup madiera.

  74. This is a great post and a wonderful discussion! So many awesome comments.

    I just want to say, no offense intended, but adding bacon is just lazy! I feel like it’s always the “solution”, and it’s a cheap one, especially for something as wonderfully hearty and vegetarian as this. LAZY! :)

    I made this for Thanksgiving and it was delicious. Some play on it will likely become a fixture around our holiday table. And I must say: it is not nearly as bland as you fear. Crimini’s have such depth of flavor, and the madeira (port or sherry would be fine, too, just something red and fortified) really punches it up. With that many other flavors on the holiday plate, you don’t want something too crazy. It paired well with a cran-date sauce and vegan soy mushroom gravy.

    I will admit, though, as a standalone dish at a potluck or as the centerpiece of a meal, it probably needs a little something.

    What I did different: I used pearled barley, soaked some porcinis and used some broth for cooking the barley, and threw in some sage and thyme to tie in w/ other dishes. I upped the garlic a bit, too.

    What I’d do different next time:
    – replace ricotta with chevre or gouda — this would definitely boost the flavors, and I know from experience both cheeses pair well w/ criminis
    – wild mushrooms or mushroom blend
    – carmellized onions or shallots
    – splash of balsamic (I like this from above!)
    Does anyone else have thoughts about some sort of sauce that it could be paired with? My thinking is that some sort of madeira-balsamic reduction could really add some zing. Or maybe a thick carmelized-shallot-balsamic sauce (assuming little to no shallots/onions in the mushroom mix)? Or something creamy, like a parmesan sauce?

  75. Rich

    looks lovely, But i must correct you, THAT MY FRIEND IS A PASTY! look up traditional cornish pasties and you will see where im coming from. hope this helps and maybe it will give you some inspiration for the future!

    oh also look up Rissoles too, there a traditional snack from my neck of the woods (Wales).

  76. Megan

    I know it’s been forever since this first posted, but I made this for dinner last night and it was absolutely amazing. Although, once I’d seen the word bacon at the top, that was stuck in my mind, so I added a little bit of bacon and a lot of Parmesan cheese as well as cutting out some of the ricotta. Just wanted to let you know it was delicious this way! Thanks for the great recipes

  77. I like this sort of thing as my Christmas thing, and have done it for Thanksgiving in the past (not being American, not often though.) I’ve just re read my post though and think I’ve made a whole new recipe out of this one….. ah well!

    I prefer them made as a one serve thing, they look more impressive on the plate- so I do them as quite small filo moneybags or parcels. Usually there’s about 4 out of 14 vegetarians but the meat eaters pinch them too so I make eight. I prefer something small and rich rather than something that takes up the whole plate and leaves no room for all the sides. They make quite an eye catching platter, with a bit of decorating.

    I like piquante edges (cranberries, pickled walnuts, peppadew- slivered or pureed as a base, capers). But I recently made a plain mushroom pie with a slices of pickled quince on the side and that gave all the lift it needed.

    I’ve done various onions, leeks etc, but tiny caramelised onions left whole were my favourite.

    Having said that, for this Winter Thanksgiving (July 09) I’ll stick with the mushrooms, chevre, rosemary (for remembrance) and cashew thing- cranberries on the side will be just enough.

    No, wait, just changed my mind. I made some prunes in armagnac recently, they have some lemon zest and tea in them…. hmm. Oh that could be very nice. Would need a different sort of sauce with that though. A thin one, or a cream one? And cranberries might not go with it. Ah, another journey begins…..

  78. Fran

    A little white sauce enriched with some grated romano ( I prefer it to Parmesan for sharpness in flavor) instead of ricotta( it’s too mild for this) and sauteed onions instead of the milder scallion, is just what this dish needed. Excellent, Thanks.

  79. Fran

    P.S. I just discovered 10 minute barley by Quaker oats. I think I like it better than regular barley. I think it needs about 18 minutes rather than 10, but I really like it.

  80. Vidya

    Huh. I’m thinking this would make a fantastic vegetarian brunch dish, or barbeque appetizer. I’d add some thyme too, and maybe some sundried tomatoes? Actually, it’d be great with some feta mixed in as well, swapped for some of the ricotta, and maybe some chopped cabbage or something for balance. I once made these great hand pies with mushrooms, ricotta, feta and cabbage. So good.

  81. Miss Martina

    I know this note is well after your posting but I had to say that we just prepared this and included some dried Chipotle flakes (they are smoky & spicy) and found the flavor, texture and sight of this dish to be fantastic!! *And I’m quite a fussy vegetarian. Thank you for the time you spend sharing on this blog. We appreciate you!
    P.S.-I’ve found the smokiness of the Chipotles quiets those who want the bacon which I won’t ever put in any food.

  82. Justine

    We added about four or five finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes and some fresh lemon juice, and substituted asiago for some of the ricotta. It was divine, and made excellent leftovers!

  83. Hepzibah

    This looks great – a successful combo in the past I have made in an open tart has been mushrooms, roasted in butter in the oven, salt and pepper generously, caramelised onions and goats cheese – the barley or farro would add delicious chewy bulk.

  84. Mine is in the oven now, and I already know it’s going to be wonderful…I tasted the filling, of course, and found that adding about 4 Tbsp soy sauce boosted the flavor without hiding the mushroom/barley-ness, which is the star of this show. Can’t wait to eat it!

  85. Mychal

    In regards to your mushroom and barley pot pie I was inspired to try a vegetarian potpie with barley. I’m sure you could make it way better, but I gave it a shot and it was delicious.
    Vegetarian Potpie Twist Ingredients: 1 tsp orange zest, 1 tsp lemon zest, 1/2 c chopped green olives, 1/2 c chopped sun dried tomatoes, 2 tsp dried parsley, 1 1/2 c diced Monterrey Jack cheese, 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese, 1 c cottage cheese, 5-6 cloves minced garlic, 1 head of cauliflower cut in small pieces, 1/2 c cocktail onions halved, Olive oil, salt, pepper, Barley (about 1 cup dried), 1 medium onion diced

  86. Stacey

    This was great! I took some liberties with the recipe and added lentils instead of barley, skipped the ricotta, and added in some roasted sweet potato. With plenty of spices, it was delicious!

  87. ellina

    We had something similar in a taverna, only wrapped in phyllo. It also contained dill, quite a bit of it, and, for me, that made all the difference. Maybe you could give it a a shot!xx

  88. diane

    i love love love this pastry! added 1/2 cup parm. cheese and yes I succumbed to the addition of bacon! needless to say it was certainly salty. but delicious

  89. Monica

    I love when I go to google images when searching for a recipe, click on the one that LOOKS the best, and it happens to be from smitten kitchen…

  90. Jay

    Added a 1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomato and 1/4 cup chopped olives and it turned out well. Making it again with more of the tomato and subbing chopped portabello mushrooms for more depth of flavor and texture with the bellas.

  91. Peter

    We’ve made this twice now, and been pleased with the results. We added reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms, and used the soaking liquid and vegetable stock to cook the barley. We replaced some of the scallions with a leek, and added a generous amount of fresh thyme to the filling during cooking. We’ll make it again, I’m sure.

  92. Marta

    I made this last month and added sun dried tomatoes and Parmesan. still something was missing, although not sure what was it.

  93. Christine

    I made this tonight. After reading your words, many comments on here, as well as the Epicurious reviews of this recipe, I made some alterations: I carmelized onions and used them instead of scallions, I took your suggestion and added 1/2 cup minced kalamata olives, I used a bit more ricotta as well as 1/2 cup Parmesan, and I added a splash of Worcestershire sauce. It was great! I cut the pie into 9ths and my husband and I ate our pieces with our hands, joking that I made gourmet hot pockets! He didn’t think he would like it, but did and went back for seconds. I would make it again.

  94. I wanted to make another vegetarian dish, so I looked on pinterest to find myself here. I read some of the comments about it not having enough ‘oomph’ in the dish. So, I put in celery, onions, tomato sauce, and removed the wine. I also added a little vegetable broth to make it a little more full-bodied. I tasted a bit of the filling and it tastes absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to bring this to the Thanksgiving party later to get friends’ reactions. Thanks for the recipe!

  95. deb w

    Has anyone mentioned some kind of hot pepper yet? I love the spicy kick of peppers! If I’m late to the pepper party, so sorry. Regardless this recipe looks stunning and delicious!

  96. Merryl

    Just finished this for the non-meat eaters in the crowd and took some of the suggestions offered. I used 2 large leeks, half a jar of drained, sun dried tomatoes chopped, cooked the barley investable broth and used a good goat cheese and a splash or two or of hot sauce. Just tasted the filling and it’s great. Have to stop tasting and get to filling the non-traditional Thanksgiving Twinkie Bundt cake. Can’t wait to have everyone ’round the table.

  97. Leah

    This showed up on “Surprise Me”. I don’t know if you’re still taking suggestions but here’s mine. Fry the mushrooms separately in butter or olive oil with a little bit of salt until browned. This will take more than the 5 minutes in the recipe. First they will sweat and release a lot of liquid. Just keep going until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms start to get a bit of browning around the edges. Add fried mushrooms as you would in the recipe. This is how I get to add some umami to dishes that would normally have a bit of meat.

  98. Carole

    This recipe came at just the right time, as we are planning a meat-free Thanksgiving for the first time. Certainly looks better than the assemble-your-own bean burritos we were discussing!

  99. Katie

    Ok…so I know this is vegetarian…I will be adding bacon. But I have a question about swapping stock in to cook the barley (what I have). Would chicken or beef stock work? I’m guessing yes, but which would be a better flavor? I’m leaning towards beef because of the mushrooms but unsure. Any helpful opinions?

  100. Cassie Sue

    I haven’t made this yet, but what about some smoked gouda which adds the smokiness of bacon without adding bacon?

    I think some of the suggestions for lentils sound pretty fantastic and adding olives, my family inhales Kalamata olives. And I’d add a little spice to kick it up a bit (though we add spice to everything). But this looks fantastic!

  101. Heather Giannandrea

    Would this work in a regular pie crust (baked in a regular 9-inch pie dish)? If you did it that way, would you change anything, e.g., cooking time and temp?

  102. Lauren

    I made this pie this week and had a few thoughts. I found the ricotta made the mixture sticky/tacky despite using good quality ricotta without additives/gums. I added finely chopped kalamata olives but agree with some of the comments that it was a bit strange in there.
    I am planning on making this again but with a few changes: leaving out the ricotta, doubling the mushrooms to give the filling more volume without the ricotta, parboiling the barley so that it still retains its bite after baking in the oven (possibly cooking the barley in mushroom stock to enhance the mushroominess??). Debating between adding sauteed leeks vs. some kind of smoky melty cheese like cheddar or gouda.
    That being said, I still happily ate the leftovers for lunch… twice ;)

  103. Hi Deb, this is one of my favorite recipes. I am making it this year for a friend for Thanksgiving. Do you think there is any way to bake it in the morning and then warm it? Or should I bake it and leave it a room temperature. We just have a limit on oven space. Thanks in advance

  104. Sarah Rosenbaum

    My vegetarian husband says thanks for making his Thanksgiving better with this pie! I subbed lentils cooked in veg broth for barley in order to give some protein, roasted about twice as much garlic (literally never too much roasted garlic, amiright?), added carmelized onion, fresh thyme, and a healthy dose of red chili flakes. It turned out superb. The flavors were totally on point for Thanksgiving. Even the omnivores had seconds! The only ingredient I would add next time is an egg in the filling for more bind. It was a bit too loose, since lentils are less awesome at the binding game than barley or farro are.

  105. Emmie

    Hey Deb,
    I have a question about scallions. When a recipe called for scallions (chopped or sliced) does that mean use all of it, even the dark green, or just the white and light green part. In this recipe, did you use the entire scallion? Thanks!

  106. Barley has a tendency to make spices a bit mild. Instead of the ricotta cheese, you might think about using either a smoked cheese (grated), or a pepper jack cheese (grated)…or if you can find a smoked pepper jack cheese …

    I was actually looking for a Scandinavian recipe or a Finish recipe for a Mushroom and Onion pie … and found your recipe. I used the Finish Mushroom and Onion pie recipe once, and from memory the main difference is the lack of wine and barley, and they used Gruyère and ricotta cheese (the recipe said you could use cottage cheese if you couldn’t get ricotta cheese… if I make this, I will most likely use for wine a Catawba Pyment (really a Omphacomel because that year the grapes didn’t get ripe, and the stuff turned out way too dry so it will make a good cooking wine…) and a mix of smoked provolone, smoked munster, and pepper jack along with either cottage or ricotta cheese ….

  107. Roland Behunin

    I made some pies more or less following this recipe. I made a few substitutions …
    Madeira – a dry Catawba Pyment (technically a Omphacomel)
    Scallions – onions
    The pie crust – regular pie crust –


    I made pies with different mixtures of cheeses —

    Smoked Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar, smoked swiss and smoked muenster
    Wasatch Back Jack Cheese, smoked swiss and smoked muenster
    Smoked Swiss

    The people who came over today, they really liked the pie made with Wasatch Back Jack Cheese, smoked Swiss and Smoked muenster (Wasatch Back Jack is a pepper jack cheese infused with Salsa)
    (~1/2 lb Wasatch Back Jack, ~1/4 Smoked Swiss and ~1/4 lb Smoked muenster)..

    People also liked the one with the Smoked Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar, and nobody touched the one that was just smoked Swiss Cheese.


  108. Ksenya Zavarin

    just found this post, looks beautiful, and a lot like my russian grandma’s mushroom “pirog” (russian meat or veggie pie). she used lots of sauteed onions to give the mushrooms extra flavor, and instead of barley, mung bean noodles (saifun) chopped to about 1″. long story. she used to make her own dough, but i love your puff pastry shortcut.

  109. Lisa Houck

    My husband and I are trying to move away from meat at every meal, so I just served this pie, and when asked what he thought, my husband said through a full mouth, “good,” which is high praise from him. But I agree, it did turn out well, thanks to your inspired suggestions to add olives and/or sun dried tomatoes. I opted for chopped pepperoncini and dried tomatoes, 1/4 c each, along with 2 oz of grated Parmesan and (shamefaced emoji) 5 patties of Morningstar Farms “sausage” cooked and chopped, which it could have done without. I also mistakenly sautéed all 1-1/3 c of the chopped scallion, so I added another 1/2 c raw to the filling, and because I didn’t have any Madeira, I used Miles tawny rainwater port . The result was definitely tasty, definitely impressive. And that Dufour puff pastry is delicious! Thanks for an excellent meatless Sunday dinner.

  110. lizdebacker

    I made this today for our Thanksgiving Dinner. I used farro cooked in vegetable broth, added thyme, kalamata olives, red bell pepper, Parmesan, and a bit of feta to the recipe. It turned out beautifully and was a crowd pleaser. Thank you for the recipe! It may become a new traditional side for this vegetarian!

  111. Melissa H

    I made this for Thanksgiving and took two of the additions noted here: I added 1/8 cup capers (could have done a full 1/4) and also some thyme (two pinches). I also added shaved Parmesan when I mixed in the ricotta. I cheated and used portabello and white button mushrooms (this is what’s left when you shop the day before Thanksgiving). Still, delicious! Will become a regular dish I our house

  112. I made this for a game of thrones themed dinner party but with a few modifications. I added the half cup of chopped olives, about half as much barley as called for in the recipe, extra scallions, and substituted half the red wine with beef stock.

    I also made individual hand pies rather than a big sheet pie. My guests loved these! I had more compliments on them than anything else on the menu which was surprising since I spent the whole day before making a fancy beef stew!

  113. elona

    CanI prepare and assemble the pie up to part of baking and instead freeze the pie and then bake it frozen when I need it ?Thanks,

  114. Beverly

    Using a tube of anchovy paste could give it a umami boost. A small amount would be enough, and not add to the taste, but could ‘intensify’ the other flavors. Or a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

  115. Louise Blake

    I made the Mushroom Barley Pie with these changes…..and it’s delicious! First of all, I added 2 teaspoons of “Mrs. Dash” seasoning, 1/2 cup of chopped dried apricots and 1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts to the filling. Then I made 4 individual “hand” pies by cutting the puff pastry into 8 squares. A delightful lunch today with a glass of white wine! 😍

  116. Alyssa

    I added steamed seasoned lentils (for protein), shiitakes, madeira-soaked dried cranberries, and blue cheese for my Thanksgiving. i also did them as hand pies with pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters. They are precious and delicious.

  117. Jon

    Sounds delicious. Being Polish I would use kasha instead of barley. Although I like barley. It might be kind of sticky used in this form. Kasha and wild mushrooms would be very traditional. Bacon, Swiss chard (more hardy than spinach), onion, and thyme sounds like an on spot addition. As for the cheese, something mild, not overpowering the mushroom flavor but complementing it. I might try feta that has been soaked in water for a few hours to remove some of the salt and strong flavor or farmers cheese. Pastry alternative, try phillo.

  118. Lillie Manvel

    I made this! Puff pastry is a superhero. Everyone enjoyed it. It’s a strong Thanksgiving main dish contender.
    Couple points: I added some lentils (maybe 1/2c. dry) because I wanted to cover up the mushrooms (which I chopped into small pieces) because I didn’t know if my kiddos would reject them. Also added kalamatas. I could see bacon working very well in this.
    Disaster averted: I don’t know if it was our oven or not (probably was), but after ~23 minutes this was almost burned on top. I wish I had checked in at 20 minutes.

  119. Nicole

    We made this recipe this past weekend. Some flavorful substitutions:

    Feta for ricotta
    Red wine for Madeira
    Added two packs dried mushrooms (chanterelle and wild mix)
    Cooked barley in rehydrated mushroom water and vegetable better than bullion