When the Italians make risotto from farro, they call it farrotto. Farro is the Italian word for emmer wheat, one of the first domesticated crops in the Near East. Farro is a wonderful alternate to rice when making a risotto. When tender, it still provides a nice chew and its silken starch makes a very creamy “risotto”.
I like to use farro with autumn flavors: butternut squash, sage, walnuts and a bit of smoked ham. The dish takes about 45 minutes to make. Warm and creamy, it makes for a wonderful meal on a cold night.
NOTE: The amount of cooking time will vary on what type of farro you use: whole farro, semi-pearled or pearled. If the grains are brown: you have whole, streaked with white: semi-pearled, white: pearled. Bob’s Red Mill sells a whole farro, which is what I use. Pearled grains will cook a bit faster.
1 1/2 Tbs each olive oil and unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups farro (see note above)
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
4 Tbs fresh sage, chopped or 1 tsp dried
4 cups butternut squash, grated
8 oz smoked ham, diced
1/2 cup grated parmesan, romano or asiago
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Pour your chicken/vegetable stock into a quart size, microwavable pitcher. Heat until hot, but not boiling. Leave in the microwave until needed.
Place a large heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Add oil and butter then toss in the onion. Saute for at least 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the farro and stir, letting the grains get lightly toasted about 3-4 minutes. Add the wine and stir. Let the liquid almost evaporate completely.
Add 2 cups of your pre-warmed stock, half of the sage and the squash. Stir well. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the mixture begins to thicken, about 10-15 minutes. Add remaining stock and return to a gentle simmer. After a total of 20-25 minutes, check the farro for doneness. If it is tender, but still chewy add the ham and cook until remaining liquid is gone and mixture is thickened.
Turn off heat. Add the cheese, walnuts and remaining sage. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with additional cheese. Garnish with fresh sage if desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!