Farro with Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese, Arugula & Walnuts
I’m in Italy with a group of Wine-Knows at a Renaissance villa in Umbria. Tomorrow we head to Tuscany for the week at a stupendous 10,000 square foot villa on the sea. Farro is one of both Tuscany and Umbria’s classical foods, however, until recently it has played second fiddle outside of central Italy to pasta. Now it’s becoming the latest culinary craze on this side of the Atlantic.
Farro is an ancient grain. It is not a wheat but a plant and a grain all its own. A grain of farro looks and tastes somewhat like a lighter brown rice. In Tuscany the grain dates from the Neolithic era. Etruscans ate farro. Farro fueled the Roman armies. But, the grain did not originate in Italy. Research indicates that farro came from the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia.
Farro is a light starch, but with a big texture and an almost nutty taste. It has a distinctive texture that I love. It’s also extremely versatile. Like pasta, it can be eaten plain, in a soup, or even in a salad. Farro contains a starch similar to that found in the rice used to make risotto, releasing a creamy, binding liquid when cooked. But, unlike risotto, farro doesn’t become gummy. Each grain of farro has a protective layer of bran. This means that every little morsel retains a tender but distinct bite…ever after it sits for days in your frig after preparation.
Rich in fiber, farro also offers magnesium, as well as vitamins A, B, C and E. It grows best in barren, high-altitude terrain, hece, is almost grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. More good news: because it is so easily digested and so low in gluten, farro can often be eaten by those who are normally gluten-intolderant.
I've had farro in many preparations, but here is one of my faves:
Farro with Roasted Butternut Squash, Walnuts, Arugula & Goat Cheese
1 C farro
1.5 cups cubed squash
1 C arugula
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
1/3 cup chopped alwanuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vineyar
Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Peel and cut squash into ½ inch cubes, toss with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Put on well oiled baking sheet and roast for 20 min.
In a saucepan bring 2 cups of water with salt to boil, add farro, cover and summer until faro is tender with a slight chew (15-20 min). Remove from heat and drain.
In a large bowl toss farro with squash, add walnut oil and balsamic, arugula, chopped nuts and goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Note: can be served either hot or cold