Since our first trip to Italy I have been a big fan of farro. Farro is made from Emmer Wheat, not spelt. The first time I had it was in a ribollita at La Bottega, a little restaurant in Volpaia, a small town in Chianti. I had read that the mother of the family, who own the restaurant, makes the best ribollita (a thick soup), so of course we had to go there! It was great! A short time later, at ristorante da Dalfina, a short drive from Florence, we ordered a tomato risotto made with farro. It was delicious. I was on the search to buy farro to bring home! I found it! Another discovery made from having leftover risotto is to make a soup with some borlotti beans, carrots, onions & celery and some herbs. Tummy warming on a cool day.
Makes 3 – 4 First Course/Side Dish Servings
1 cup farro perlato (semi-pearled)**
1 Tbsp. each EVO & unsalted butter
1 ½ cups chicken stock** or tinned low/no salt chicken broth, or more, especially if using regular farro**
½ tsp. salt
2 cups tinned Italian plum tomatoes, drained & pureed in a food mill (or you can simply mash up with your hands). Don’t use a food processor, pureed seeds will make the tomatoes bitter.
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
2 oz. pancetta, cut into fine dice
¼ cup dry white wine
2 – 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For Finishing the Risotto:
2 – 3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Heat the stock in a pot until hot. Cover with a lid & keep warm on low heat. Heat the EVO & butter in a medium sized pot & add the pancetta; sauté until golden; add the onion & sauté until translucent, then add the garlic & sauté for a minute or so. Add the farro & stir until coated & lightly toasted; approximately 2 minutes. Add the wine & cook until it evaporates. Ladle in ½ cup stock at a time, stirring & adding more stock as it is absorbed into the farro. Repeat until all stock is used up. Add the pureed tomatoes & continue to cook until the farro is al dente 12 – 15 minutes, adding more stock if necessary until it is ready; add the basil & season to taste with more salt if required & freshly ground black pepper. Add the cheese & butter, stirring until incorporated. Serve immediately.
**A note about Farro Perlato. I have, so far, been unable to find pearled farro in Vancouver, so I buy it in Italy & in London at an Italian Deli. You can easily find the regular farro, but for making risotto using regular farro there are two schools of thought on the preparation method. One is to pre-soak & one is not. Both methods follow & you can decide which one would work for you.
Soak the farro in cold water to cover for 8 – 12 hours, drain & continue with the recipe.
OR: another method if you is to sauté the onion & garlic as above, add the unsoaked farro, stirring for a minute to coat with oil & butter, add the wine, cook until reduced, stirring constantly, then add 1 ½ cup hot broth & ½ tsp salt, stir to combine; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover & simmer about 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed into the farro. Add the pureed tomatoes & ¼ cup hot broth, boil over medium heat, uncovered, until tender adding more broth ¼ cup at a time, stirring occasionally, until farro is al dente, approximately 25 minutes, the farro should not be dry. Season farro to taste with salt & pepper to taste, stir in the cheese & butter until creamy.
**If you would like to make your own stock, please go to Making Stock.