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Farro: An Ancient And Complicated Grain Worth Figuring Out - did you know piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer), and farro grande (spelt)

farah fawcett

Farro originated in the Fertile Crescent, where it has been found in the tombs of Egyptian kings and is said to have fed the Roman Legions. Italians have dined on farro for centuries. Now, with the revival of interest in whole grains, farro's popularity is gaining in the U.S. as well.

Though we refer to farro as if it were one grain, it's actually three. There's farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer), and farro grande (spelt). Emmer is what you'll find sold most often in the U.S. It's a harder grain than einkorn and is often confused with spelt, which is another type of grain altogether. Then there are farro's Latin labels: einkorn, which is Triticum monococcum; emmer, which is Triticum dicoccum; and spelt, which is Triticum spelta.

Tuscan Soup The original recipe for this soup, from Vegan Planet: 400 Irresistible Recipes With Fantastic Flavors From Home and Around the World by Robin Robertson, called for using spelt and for cooking the soup for 1 1/2 hours. I used semipearled farro instead of spelt and added some oregano and a bay leaf, and found that not only was this soup delicious, it was done in no time. Indeed, one of the benefits of this recipe is that the farro cooks in the soup broth, and by the time the soup is done, so is the farro.

Tuscan Soup

Laura B. Weiss for NPR

Makes 4 servings

3/4 cup farro

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling, if desired

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 medium-size carrot, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

5 cups vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups or one 15-ounce can cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Sautee over medium heat until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf and oregano. Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Add the farro and bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer the soup for 20 to 30 minutes or until the farro is almost tender (you don't want the grains completely cooked since the soup will cook for additional time and the vegetables are cooked). Add more water if the soup becomes too thick.

Add the beans and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve hot, drizzled with a little olive oil, if desired.

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Looks hearty.

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