Italy's favorite grain seems to be taking restaurant menus of the world by storm, but do you know how to cook farro at home? This ancient grain's name stems from the Latin for wheat, though it's far and beyond the wheat we know today--bursting with zinc, folate and niacin, not to mention a good deal more fiber.
Farro is often compared with other heirloom wheats, particularly spelt, a problem not helped by the fact that the Italians often call them by the same name. In Italian, three terms -- farro piccolo, farro medio, and farro grande -- actually refer to three different ancient wheat species, einkorn, emmer, and spelt respectively. In English, we know them better as freekah, farro, and spelt; farro in English corresponds to the "medium farro" of Italian cuisine and combines the best of both worlds, with a chewy texture that remains al dente in salads but can be cooked down into "farotto" or risotto-like dishes. Farro is possibly the most versatile of the three; that's why it's so much fun to cook.
Still not sure to approach it? Here are a few of our favorite farro recipes to help you get a handle on how to cook farro.
Baked Acorn Squash Image from Shutterstock
1. Roasted, Stuffed Acorn Squash and Farro Recipe
This recipe shows off farro's marvelously chewy al dente texture. In this acorn squash recipe, farro is flavored with shallot, garlic, fennel, and spinach, then stuffed into roasted acorn squash and topped with feta cheese. The combination of the creamy squash and chewy farro is one of the reasons this recipe is a seasonal favorite.
Images and recipes courtesy of author Georgeanne Brennan and Weldon Owen Publishing.
2. Farro Salad Recipe
A farro salad allows you to bulk up a great lunch option with tons of filling protein and a nice, toothsome chew. Combined with lemon, parsley, olives, capers, parmesan cheese, and artichokes, farro takes on a distinctively Mediterranean flair in this salad. You'll see why Italians go gaga over farro, particularly when you see how well it stands up to an overnight soak in the refrigerator for easy leftovers the next day.
3. Farro Risotto
Unlike spelt, farro works perfectly in a risotto recipe thanks to its ability to be cooked down into a creamy yet toothsome texture. This version of "farotto" is flavored with both dried porcini and fresh mushrooms as well as cranberry beans and a touch of parmesan for a rich, earthy dish.
Reprinted with permission from “Chia, Quinoa, Kale, Oh My!” by Cassie Johnston, The Countryman Press 2015
4. Cheesy Baked Farro with Cauliflower
There's nothing that screams comfort food more than a cheesy bake, but to make this classic a little bit healthier, this version not only uses farro but also adds cauliflower to the creamy base, thus diminishing the guilt factor and making it something you can feel good about enjoying any day of the week.
Farro soup image via Shutterstock
5. Farro Soup
The Italians are famous for cooking their grains and starches into soups, from risi e bisi to minestrone to ribollita, and farro is no different. This farro soup gets bulked up with veggies like kale and cannellini beans for a rich flavor and a punch of extra plant protein.
Farro pie via Shutterstock
6. Farro and Ricotta Torta
If farro wasn't versatile enough, you can also bake it into a savory pie. This Italian-influenced torta pairs cracked farro with ricotta and parsley, all of which are baked into a savory torte held together with eggs and parmesan cheese.
Pudding image via Shutterstock
7. Farro Pudding
Yes, farro can even be made into a dessert. In this farro pudding recipe, a riff off of the classic made with rice, farro is sweetened with coconut milk, brown sugar, a touch of cinnamon, and vanilla for a creamy, delicious treat to be enjoyed hot or cold.
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Farro image via Shutterstock