Italian farrotto is essentially a risotto-style dish made with farro in place of the usual Arborio rice. Although it is made with a similar method, farro’s more robust, nutty flavour gives the dish new dimension. But because much of farro’s starch is trapped inside the outer bran, achieving a creamy, velvety consistency can be a challenge.
We tested making farrotto with pearled farro, which has had the outer bran removed, but the flavour was lacking and the sauce turned out thin. Instead, we turned back to whole farro and, to make the starch more accessible without losing farro’s hallmark chew, we ran the grains through a blender. After a few pulses, about half of the farro had cracked, freeing up enough starch to create a creamy, risotto-like consistency.
Adding most of the liquid up front and cooking the farrotto in a lidded Dutch oven helped the grains cook evenly and meant we didn’t have to stir constantly—just twice before stirring in the flavourings. We also created a variation with pancetta, asparagus, and peas, which turned this simple side into a satisfying main course. We prefer the flavour and texture of whole farro.
Do not use quick-cooking, presteamed, or pearled farro (read the ingredient list on the package to determine this) in this recipe. The consistency of farrotto is a matter of personal taste; if you prefer a looser texture, add more of the hot broth mixture.
Start to finish: 1 hour
1 1/2 cups whole farro
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pulse farro in blender until about half of grains are broken into smaller pieces, about 6 pulses.
Bring broth and water to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and keep warm.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add farro and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.
Stir 5 cups warm broth mixture into farro mixture, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until almost all liquid has been absorbed and farro is just al dente, about 25 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.
Add thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until farro becomes creamy, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in Parmesan, parsley, lemon juice, and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Adjust consistency with remaining warm broth mixture as needed (you may have broth left over). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.