In his cookbook How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Mark Bittman lists “5 Hard-to-Find Grains Worth Looking For.” The first grain is Farro, an ancient Italian strain of wheat, similar to spelt. Imagine my delight when I was wandering the aisles of Costco and discovered 3-pound bags of Farro Perlato for sale. Having read rave reviews of Farro on other blogs, I was curious to try it and bought a bag.
Farro’s long, plump shape lends it a toothy, substantial texture when cooked. Thus, Farro is often used in Italian bean and vegetable soups or cooked risotto-style. I substituted Farro for Arborio rice in a Red Wine Risotto recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook and served it alongside grilled chicken and fresh green beans—delicious! I’m already dreaming of more Farro dishes, and I have to agree with Mark Bittman, Farro definitely is a grain worth looking for.
Serves 10-12 as a first course or 6-8 as a main course
3 cups water
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups pearled Farro (if you can’t find pearled farro, you’ll need to soak it before cooking)
2 cups dry red wine
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Garnishes: curls shaved with a vegetable peeler from a piece of Parmesan, fresh rosemary sprigs
Combine water and stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover and keep at a bare simmer.
In a 5-to-6 quart heavy saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over moderate heat until butter melts. Add onion, rosemary, sage, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in farro and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Add remaining cup wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Add 1 cup simmering broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until farro is tender but still al dente, 20 to 25 minutes.
Stir in parsley, cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with Parmesan curls and rosemary sprigs and serve immediately.