Farro is the most controversial grain I’ve ever encountered. Here is it’s background: farro is an ancient grain, a type of wheat that was one of the first domesticated plants in the Middle East. However, it’s a low yielding crop and has been replaced over the years by its cousin modern wheat. It still remains popular in some places today, notably Italy.
The controversy lies among the confusion about what to call farro. Some say is it spelt, others emmer, and still others think that farro is its own species. The word “farro” is borrowed from Italian to describe the grain, but in Italy farro can be one of three types of hulled wheat: spelt, emmer or einkorn. Barley and wheatberries also have similar characteristics and are prepared similarly to farro.
Whatever it is, we really enjoyed farro. Its small, plump grains have a slightly nutty flavor. It is also very nutritious; high in fiber, protein, and several nutrients, it even contains a carbohydrate that has been shown to stimulate the immune system and lower cholesterol. It provides a complete protein when paired with legumes. On top of that, the it is low in gluten and the gluten molecules it does contain are more fragile than those in modern wheat, making them easier to digest and sometimes tolerable for gluten-intolerant people.
You can use farro wherever you would another grain such as quinoa or barley, or in soups and salads. It is sold whole, semi-pearled and pearled, which determines the cooking time. Pearlized farro (farro perlate) is prepared similarly to rice: 2:1 liquid to grain, simmered for 25-30 minutes or until desired tenderness is reached.
We made a farro dish with mushrooms, bacon, asparagus, fresh herbs and toasted almonds. The result was a rich, nutty and earthy dinner.
Farro with Mushrooms, Bacon and Asparagus
Makes 3-4 servings
- 2 C dry farro
- 1 T white truffle oil
- Olive oil
- 1 large shallot, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 1/4 lb. bacon, diced
- 1/4 lb. oyster mushrooms, sliced
- 1/8 lb. crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 lb. asparagus
- 3 T fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 T fresh thyme
- Slivered almonds, toasted (enough for garnish)
Cook farro according to package directions. Drain and place in large bowl.
Saute shallot, garlic, bacon and mushrooms in olive oil and truffle oil until bacon is fully cooked and mushrooms are tender.
In a grill pan, cook asparagus in olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste. Grill for around 4-5 minutes, turning halfway through. Roughly chop into bite sized pieces.
Add sauteed mixture, including liquid, chopped asparagus, parsley and thyme to bowl of farro. Toss together thoroughly so everything is mixed in and coated with liquid from saute pan. Sprinkle toasted almonds on top.