I'm kicking off the New Year with a series of ancient grain recipes, beginning with this Farro Risotto. I've been exploring ancient grains for a while now. I'm excited about their incredible nutritional value, ease of cooking, and deliciousness. Whole grains are also a super economical way to get some powerhouse nutrition. All cultures have known this forever, and we all need to get back to eating what has sustained us for centuries.
And it's so easy. If you can cook rice or quinoa (the most popular ancient grain), then you can cook farro, buckwheat, barley, or bulgur. There are many more ancient grains, but these are the ones I'm exploring in this series of posts. Coming this spring and summer, I'll talk about amaranth, spelt, kamut, millet and teff. And these are just a few.
Why do we limit our grain consumption to rice, wheat and oats? Maybe it's because these are the most highly refined, processed, packaged, and sold. And that's the reason that you we should all try out some ancient grains, like farro. There isn't a mass market for farro, buckwheat, bulgur, or spelt, so agricultural practices are not as industrialized for these products. Which means, that many of these grains are organic. Ancient grains, by their very definition, have remained unchanged for centuries, so most are not GMO.
Farro is far more nutritious than the arborio rice commonly used to make risotto. It's an excellent source of complex carbs, vitamins, and minerals. It's also much higher in protein than other grains. The protein content in farro is actually comparable to that of beans and legumes. All vegetarian diets should include farro, if just to add some variety to the proteins, but also because it has a deliciously nutty flavour and texture that is a wonderful change from beans or rice. But farro is just as versatile. You can sub farro for any bean or any rice in a recipe for a super satisfying result, that may be just a little different, but in a good way. How can you tell that I'm a huge fan of farro? I love this stuff.
Farro Risotto won't be as creamy as risotto made with arborio rice. It has a nutty, chewy texture even with the long cooking time required for risotto. But farro tastes delicious when slowly cooked in wine and stock as a risotto. It's earthy, nutty flavour pairs beautifully with so many ingredients. Winter squash works really well with in this hearty, flavourful risotto. I used an acorn squash here, but any winter squash will work.
If you're intrigued by farro, you might want to check out this Farro Salad, or these Farro Stuffed Peppers, too. You can find it in most grocery stores, usually here you find rice. Versatile farro is one of my favourite ancient grains.
*Since Farro is a species of wheat, it is not gluten free. If you're looking for a gluten free grain, you can substitute Buckwheat in this risotto. Learn more about buckwheat, and another recipe: Mediterranean Buckwheat Salad.
- 1 small acorn or other squash, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes*
- 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock heated and kept warm over low heat
- 1 cup farro, soaked in water for 30 minutes and drained
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 cup red wine
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp thyme leaves
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- In a saucepan, heat stock to boiling, then keep warm over low heat.
- In a large, deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add onion, cooking until softened.
- Add farro, and cook, stirring, until starting to brown, about 3 minutes.
- Add wine, and stir until liquid is absorbed
- Add hot stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed each time
- Season with salt, pepper and thyme.
- Remove from heat and stir in squash cubes and Parmesan cheese
- Serve hot
To roast the squash, preheat oven to 400°. Put whole squash on a baking pan and roast for around an hour or until you can peirce with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slipping off the skin, removing the seeds, and cutting into cubes.