I have a tendency to go to my farmer's market and just wander the aisles...looking for random and new stuff to cook with. Do normal people do that?! Anyway. On one of my many, many trips there I was in the bulk grain aisle and spotted some farro. It was a little pricey but this was a quart of it. I threw it in the cart and off I went. It spent a couple weeks on the shelf and then I tried cooking it.
Oh dear. I clearly should have consulted the big cookbook in the sky known as the Internet (or Mark Bittman) before I went about it. It was tough, hard and totally off putting. Back on the shelf it went for a couple weeks that included two out of town trips and a move. Back in one place - and in the effort of using everything I buy - I revisited it again.
This time I was armed with a very simple, hearty recipe I came across on Serious Eats (which I totally heart and I learn or see something new every day on, btw). Given my love of soups - particularly tomato-y ones - this was a no-brainer. I had everything in the house to make my own version of the recipe. Instead of the beef broth, I used the veggie broth I had on hand - as you can see, it's super easy to make this a vegetarian/vegan friendly soup. Herbs from my garden, a large can of good quality Italian whole tomatoes and spices from the cabinet rounded it out nicely.
Soaking the farro in advance for a good while made all the difference. It's going to cut down your cooking time DRAMATICALLY and keep you from having to constantly add broth or stock to the soup as it cooks. While you could easily substitute barley in this recipe, I think the nutty crunch and tooth of the farro is what makes it here. It's substantial enough to have as a meal with some warm bread on the side.
Editor's Note: Be very careful if you're taste testing your farro for doneness during the cooking process. A couple sneaky bites while cooking has rendered my tongue the texture of sandpaper and everything I eat feels like burning. Just a heads up.
Zuppa di Farro - based on a recipe found here at Serious Eats - makes 8 to 10 servings
- 2 cups farro
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 medium clove of garlic - peeled and minced
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup canned or chopped whole plum tomatoes
- pinch dried red chili flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 to 8 cups of good-quality chicken or vegetable stock
- Garnish: good quality extra virgin olive oil and parsley
- In a large stock pot, add your 3 tbsp. olive oil. When heated to shimmering, add the garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes until cooked but not brown.
- To the pot add the tomatoes, thyme, chopped basil, bay leaf, chili flakes, farro and stock. If using whole tomatoes, crush them with a wooden spoon as you're cooking the soup - I like the larger chunks and the way they break down in the soup. Bring the soup to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about an hour - stirring periodically. If the soup is too thick from the farro absorbing the liquid, add more stock or a little water.
- If you want a thicker consistency, you can puree part of the soup (once cool so you don't blow up your blender or food processor) and add it back to the pot. I prefer a looser, more liquid soup to contrast with the tooth of the farro but it's all personal preference.
- If serving without adding a pureed portion, serve while warm - make sure to remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs! Top with a sprinkle of parsley and a drizzle of good quality olive oil. If serving after you've added the pureed portion back in, make sure you reheat and then garnish.
- When storing the soup, the farro will continue to absorb the liquid it's in. Be prepared when re-heating to add some water or stock to thin it back out.