Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pick of the Week: Farro

When my friend Ronnie Fein posted a recipe that starred farro, I decided it was time to talk about one of my favorite grains in Pick of the Week. I am allergic to wheat, and although farro is a wheat, I can tolerate it in small amounts. Definitely not every day, because that would send me back for my weekly visits to my allergist, but once every other week -- I can do that!

And when I do, farro is the grain I would grab. But what is it?

Some say it's spelt, but I was never convinced. My mom would soak farro before using it in recipes, while spelt needs no soaking. A few years ago I did some digging, and came across a notation in Garzanti's Italian-English dictionary that agrees with me! Farro and spelt might look similar, but there is a difference. Once cooked, farro is firm and chewy -- one of the reasons I love it so much -- while spelt is softer.

This recipe is my mom's, and one she would make toward the end of Lent, when asparagus first started to pop up at the market. I soak the farro in the morning, so it's ready for dinner.

1 cup farro, soaked in 2 cups water for 8 hours
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, sliced
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 red onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tblsp. olive oil
1 Tblsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tblsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives
  • Drain farro. Cook farro in large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer to large bowl.
  • Cook asparagus in another saucepan of boiling salted water 3 minutes for slender stalks, 5 minutes for thick ones. Drain. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Add to farro.
  • Gently fold tomatoes, onions and parsley into farro.
  • Whisk oil, lemon juice and vinegar in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Dress farro.
  • Gently fold in feta and olives. Taste and adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.


  1. Great recipe! I make something very similar using barley -- just in case you want to try the same dish and not eat the wheat.

    I love farro for its flavor and chewiness. I never soak it. Maybe when I started making it I didn't know about soaking. Whatever -- it really doesn't need soaking. I never soak or rinse rice either.

    Your recipe is very versatile -- can change the herb or add cooked vegetables and even chopped up cooked shrimp or chicken and it's a more substantial salad.

  2. I am such a creature of habit, Ronnie, and since it is what I have always done with farro, I continue to do so. If you tell me I don't have to soak farro, then I will give it a try.

  3. well, maybe you're supposed to soak it, but I never have!

    When I submitted the farro recipes for Hip Kosher my editor asked about the cooking time -- older recipes suggested cooking farro much longer. But it was always mushy. Maybe the soaking is from a time when cooks thought farro should be soft? I love the chewiness, don't you?

  4. I do love the chewiness. But I get that with soaking as well. There's only one way to test this out: Cook-off!

  5. YAY!!!

    Let's pick a recipe and a time.