As a little experiment with whole grains, and using something traditionally Italian, this week I tried cooking with farro. Ever used it before?
I thought I was buying spelt again, after our success with spelt pasta, but turns out buying farro grains means walking into a bit of a debate. Farro, found in Italian food stores and health stores, is the whole grain of certain forms of wheat. It is widely referred to as the grain of spelt, but in Italy emmer, einkorn and spelt grains are all called farro. The confusion comes from regional differences of what is grown and used locally. Whatever grain it is, it’s a traditional and great alternative to pasta. Serve it as you would rice, pasta or beans, but you’ll get a heartier and healthy meal instead.
I’ve found that you can cook farro two ways: with a measured amount of water that will evaporate with cooking (like cooking rice) or with as much water as you like, as you can just drain it once the grains are cooked. The result is the same. Working with an unlimited amount of water works well for me because I can never seem to get the ratios right for water to grain, ever. My white rice is either burnt or raw – but ever since I started using brown rice and whole grains, I seem to always get the cooking times right.
For dinner for four, one cup of farro placed in salted water, will do. Bring to a boil, cover, and wait about 20-30 minutes.
For my first meal with farro, I tried to stay traditional. I pan-fried some homemade sausage and dug out some frozen meat sauce to mix in once the sausage had browned.
The farro is ready when it is soft but still has a bite to it (after about 20-30 minutes), the classic al dente as with pasta. Drain in a colander with small holes and transfer immediately to your pan of tomato sauce. Toss to make sure all the farro is covered in tomato goodness.
Mixed together with sauce, farro does not look as pretty as pasta, but tastes fantastic. It’s hearty and filling. Also, it doesn’t leave you feeling that bloated-kind-of-full like a starchy arborio rice would prepared the same way. Sprinkle the dish generously with parmesan cheese and you are ready to go.
For a first try, farro was easy to cook and a dish that’s quick to prepare. Farro can also be served with lemon, parsley and oil; as a gratin with brown butter; used in a cold salad with feta and scallions; in soup or prepared like a risotto.
I’m looking for the perfect blow-you-away recipe to use the rest of the box of grains. Do you have a favourite way to cook farro? Let me know in the comments!