If you’re like me you knew nothing about farro before reading this post. It’s an old grain that is said to be one of the first domesticated plants and dates back to pre-Roman times. Farro is a really cool distant cousin of modern wheat and is very similar in texture and taste to spelt. Farro has twice the fiber of wheat and the cyanogenic glucosides found in farro have been found to stimulate the immune system, lower cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. However, if you are a person that needs to be gluten free farro may not work for you. The gluten molecules are weaker than modern wheat, making it more easily digested but farro does contain gluten. We are featuring farro on our hot bar in the store this week. If you are curious about it, stop by and try some of our dishes!
Here are also some cool ways to prepare Farro:
With Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper
Farro’s not hard to cook—most recipes call for soaking it overnight, in which case the cooking time is really no more than a few minutes. Being more of an in-the-moment cook, I just boil it straight from the bag (okay, I rinse it quickly before it goes into the boiling water) with a bit of salt for about 30 to 40 minutes ’til it’s tender. You can go to any degree of doneness you like; I prefer it a bit more on the firm side, so it’s got a bit of nice al dente chew left in the middle. When it’s done, just drain it and dress it up with really good olive oil, some sea salt, and whatever else you want, and serve it as you would pasta, rice, or beans. If you’re going green you can add a bunch of chopped kale or sliced thin collards to the cooking water so that they’re done when the farro is finished. If you have a chunk of bacon or a parmesan rind sitting around you can put those in the cooking water too. When the farro’s ready, just drain, dress, and go straight to soup bowl and spoon away.
Farro Salad with Mozzarella and Roasted Peppers
One salad technique I came across in my reading was to serve room temperature farro topped with bits of fresh mozzarella and chopped tomato. Given that we’re in the middle of winter, I’ve been using roasted red peppers instead of tomatoes to great effect. Finish it with a lot of good green olive oil (the Pasolivo from California has been high on my list) along with a bit of sea salt, a touch of Maras (Turkish) red pepper, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. This dish is actually good as well with the farro hot and the mozzarella at room temperature—the cheese will get slightly soft when you toss the two but won’t be fully melted down.
Roman Farro Soup
I’m very big on farro-based soups—they’re easy to do, I can put pretty much anything I’ve got at home into ’em, and they keep we warm and well-fed. Basically the old Roman recipes seem to be what most of the world might know now as “minestrone,” but they’re made with farro instead of beans or pasta. Sauté some chopped carrots, celery, tomato, garlic, and onion, along with a good bit pancetta, then simmer the lot of them in chicken (or other) broth (or water) with farro and plenty of olive oil. Chopped greens are always a good addition as well. Add pork or parmesan rind if you have one laying around to buck up the flavor even further. Finish with ground black pepper and chopped fresh parsley. Serve it with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and more olive oil at the table.