pressure cooker chickpea, white bean and barley stew
The January cover of La Cucina Italiana caught my eye with a wonderfully wintery soup.  The recipe seemed like a perfect candidate for the pressure cooker – and improvisation!

The description of the recipe evoked a romantic vision of port wives sweeping up any grains, legumes and spices dropped from holes in the sacks destined to to Genoa.  They would wash them off and the toss them into a simmering pot for dinner.

In fact, there is no exact recipe for Mesciua so my mind was set free.  I slipped into the imaginary sandals of a port wife, broom in-hand, finding culinary gold between the planks of wood on the dock to greedily shove in my pockets and bring home to make a rich and flavorful  “peasant” dish.

Let your fantasy, and pantry, dictate what you will use in your own soup. You could use any beans, grain and spice.  The recipe used cannelllini and chickpeas, farro or buckwheat, and finished with a grind of pepper at the end.  The grains of Farro seemed to get lost in all of those round and plump beans so I chose barley. And, even though La Cucina Italiana insists finishing with black pepper (an exotic spice 400 years ago). I say that you could use any spice that you find in your pantry  which might be neglected  (no more than three, please)!

So make your own mesciua (mix) with any two or more bean varieties, any grain and any spice!

Instead of cooking each bean variety separately, I pressure cooked them together using the steamer basket for  the canellini beans (which only need half the pressure cooking time of the Chickpeas). Adjust  the cooking times for your version according to your bean and grain cooking times.


Pressure Cooker Accessories Pr. Cook Time Pr. Level Open
5 L or larger steamer basket 15 min. High (2) Natural
4.7 from 3 reviews
Ligurian Bean and Barley Stew Pressure Cooker Recipe
Recipe type: pressure cooker
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 heaping cup (200g) of Chickpeas (or Garbanzo Beans), dry
  • 1 heaping cup (200g) of Canellini (or Navy) Beans, dry
  • ½ cup (100g) Perlated Barley
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil (see notes).
  • The spices of your choosing (maximum 3). I used:
  • 1 clove, 3-5 pepper kernels, 2-3 coriander seeds
  • 4 cups or 1 L Water
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste (I used 2 tsp. Salt and 1 tsp. ground pepper)
  • Unrefined or High-quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil to finish
  • Ricotta Salata or Pecorino Romano, peeled into ribbons
  • Tea Infuser ( to hold the spices)
  1. The night before, soak each bean variety separately. Or quick-soak the beans - for now, each variety should be treated separately.
  2. Rinse the chickpeas and put them in the pressure cooker with the garlic clove, tea infuser filled with spices, the water, barley and salt. For pressure cookers with a jiggler or weight-modifyed pressure valve (these make a lot of noise and release vapor during operation) add a 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil to control foaming. For modern spring-valve or electric pressure cookers (these use a spring valve) you can omit doing this - because we will not be using the valve to release pressure in this recipe.
  3. Next, add the steamer basket containing the rinsed canellini beans.
  4. Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker. Turn the heat up to high and when the cooker reaches pressure, lower to the heat to the minimum required by the cooker to maintain pressure. Cook for 15 minutes at high pressure.
  5. When time is up, open the pressure cooker using the Natural Release method - move the cooker to cold burner and don't do anything and wait for the pressure to come down naturally (this could take up to 20 minutes).
  6. Pour the beans from the steamer basket into the pot, remove the tea infuser. Adjust for salt and pepper, stir well and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.
  7. Scoop into individual bowls and garnish with optional cheese ribbons a drizzle of unfiltered, or your best, olive oil.

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  1. I’m still a newbie to PC, but I have been very successful with beans. I’ve been using Lorna Sass’s book Pressure Perfect as my guide. She says to always use oil when cooking beans to control foaming, regardless of the type of PC you have (old vs new). I believe she also says that using a quick release has a tendency to burst the beans. Has this been your experience? I love your blog!

  2. Thanks for this tip! I will have to try it!

  3. It’s definitely easier to require everyone to add oil, than to risk someone misunderstanding what kind of pressure cooker they have an not use it when they should.

    I don’t think that I’ve ever used the cold-water-quick release with beans so I cannot attest as to whether they split open due to a quick pressure drop. They can split, however, during quick re-hydration – for example when your pressure cook them from dry.



  4. You come up with such innovative techniques. I have been pressure cooking for a couple of decades and never thought of this. Love it!

    1. Thanks, Linda. I’m always looking for ways to make my (and your) life easier!

      You should see my house all kinds of rigged-up systems to streamline any and EVErything!!!



  5. Interesting recipe, I never tried it with the pressure cooker and might do that soon.
    Just one minor remark: the real name of the recipe is “Mesciua” (accent on e) and not Mescuia”. Indeed, “mescciüa” (accent on u) in Ligurian dialect means “To mix” and this is a mix of different grains and cereals.

    Indeed, as you say, there isn’t a single recipe for Mesciua, there are variations on the same theme, that can be grouped into two main families: Mesciua from La Spezia and… all the others. I have original recipes for the two, sand me an email and will provide the scan of a ligurian cookbook.

    1. Thanks for catching my mix-up of letters – I have light dyslexia and the spell-checker usually takes care of it… but there is no spell checker for regional Italian dialect!!!

      Ciao e Grazie!


  6. Pressure cooking really is perfect for dried beans, isn’t it? Interesting to see you use the steamer basket. I usually just cover them with water. Prevents them from sticking to the bottom and burning, I suppose?

    1. The steamer basket is to make sure the canellini don’t disintegrate and fall apart when cooking the same amount of time as the chickpeas! The chickpeas boil below while the canellini steam above. They’re both ready at the same time instead of cooking them separately for 13 and 7 minutes or having to open the pressure cooker with the quick-cold-water release (which is not available to everyone) and phasing them in.



  7. Thanks for the informative post- love that it has a variety of beans. I’m trying to get more comfortable working with a pressure cooker- thanks for the help.

  8. Thanks for the tip. This looks amazing. I will let you know how it goes tonight!

  9. Just made this recipe and found it a little bland, even though I used veggie broth instead of water. Can you include a portion of a Parm rind when pc’ing? This technique was very creative. Kudos!

  10. Mindy, the taste should really be delicate from the spices. The beans themselves should offer their flavor and the rest would come from the olive oil, pepper and cheese.

    I tried pressure cooking a Parmesan rind with polenta and it stuck to the bottom of the pressure cooker and scorched a little bit… don’t know how it would do with this soup, but it’s a great idea!



  11. Thanks, Laura. I did find that the beans were the predominant flavor, and perfectly cooked. I also meant to say that I stirred in a little pesto after the soup was ladled in my bowl…. which probably destroyed the intent of this dish, but it was nice. I’m sure those with Italian descent are just shaking their heads at me :-) Thanks again for being so creative and sharing your knowledge with us. I always get excited when I see a new post! BTW, I made a PC egg this morning. That technique still blows my mind a little.

  12. Mindy, I’m glad to hear the beans were perfectly cooked!

    You did great with the addition of pesto and were not too far off the beaten path. In Italy, we eat room-temperature minestrone in the summer and garnish it with pesto.

    I’m so glad you have found lots of useful information and I really appreciate the feedback on the flavor, etc. – it’s important for me to hear how everyone’s palatte perceives a particular recipe.

    Constructive feedback is my favorite kind of feedback!



  13. Thanks so much for all the great recipes, and info! I am new to cooking, and started right out with an electric pressure cooker much to the shock and amazement of my friends.

    I’m not supposed to eat barley – does anyone know if kamut, buckwheat or millet would work as a substitute in this recipe?

  14. I have not made this yet, but I was struck by your technique of not adding oil to the beans/grain mixture if using a PC with a spring valve. I’m not anxious to be adding extra oil to my beans and grains, which seems to be the standard recommendation. You mention this isn’t necessary in this case because you are not using the pressure release valve. Is this approach generalizable to other recipes composed primarily of beans and/or grains?

    1. Yes, you can withhold oil from any legume, and even grain recipe, if you have a spring-valve cooker AND open with Natural Release. However, if you’re not sure what kind of valve your cooker has it’s best to include a teaspoon of oil. Not including oil in a venting cooker (weight-modified and jiggler) means that the cooker will spray out foam and starch each time the cooker vents – this is not just messy, it can also clog the pressure release valves.



  15. What’s perlated barley?
    do you mean pearl barley or whole grain barley?

    1. Pearl barley.



  16. How about cooking legumes with a hamhock, is that going to affect anything besides lessening the amt of beans I can put in the IP?

  17. I made a pot of this with chickpeas and some beautiful Rancho Gordo MayoCoba heirloom beans I had in my cupboard, with barley… It is soooo delicious. It is simple, bean flavor comes through. I cooked for 20 minutes in my insta-Pot, and it was perfect. It took about 20 minutes for the pressure to naturally release as indicated in the recipe. Thank you for this!!!
    I used a bay leaf, peppercorns, and coriander seeds for the spices. Your recipes are ROCKIN’ !!!

    1. Thanks for all of the reviews Paula, you’ve been pressure cooking up a storm!



  18. Works beautifully! Thanks once again for you hard work in trying out some many options for us.
    Bon appetite

  19. Ciao, Laura:
    When making this stew, do you put the steamer basket directly on top of the ceci and barley, or do you put the trivet in the bottom and the basket on top of it? I will be making this tomorrow!

    1. Wheat, use the trivet so the cannellini steam while the chickpeas are boiling below. ; )



      1. Forgot to ask, should you presoak the barley, or just throw it in dry?

        1. Throw it in dry. : )



  20. Tried this tonight in my Instant Pot. It was good, but dry. Some liquid definitely foamed out, which may be the issue. The cooking liquid was totally gone! I still appreciated the flavor, but will try adding 1/2c additional liquid next time, I think. Thanks for the hearty and healthy recipe!

    1. Rebecca, the foaming comes from using the incorrect opening method. I know that some books, websites and discussion groups say this is optional but as you’ve found out it’s really not. For beans and grains, always use the Natural Pressure release. My recipes also take advantage of this release to reduce the cooking time (because the food will continue to cook during the Natural Release) and I promise you won’t have a gunked-up lid at the end of the recipe. ; )



      1. Thanks, Laura. Oddly, the foaming seems to have occurred early in the process, before the pot sealed. I definitely did natural release, but I suspect it was low on water already at that point. Perhaps I just had unruly beans!

  21. This was really good! I’ll be honest: I just threw everything in the Instant Pot without soaking, cooked on high for 35 minutes and let the pressure release naturally. It came out amazing ~ it will definitely be a keeper in our household.

    For the record, I used Bob’s Red Mill un-hulled barley, and I added some carrots, celery, and spinach. Probably not authentic as the author imagined this stew, but something we’re going to make again and again for our vegan diet.

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