This month another Italian product received the prestigious Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) guarantee from the European Union. Farro di Monteleone di Spoleto, grown in the region of Umbria, joins some 900 other Italian products with this designation. Far ahead of France and Spain, these Italian products are protected for their genuine quality and source. It is similar to the designation and protection of true Champagne produced only in the Champagne region of France.
Farro is an ancient grain, the predecessor of today’s wheat. Kernels have been discovered in Egyptian tombs and farro has been used for thousands of years in the Middle East and North Africa. The Romans may have used it for monetary purposes as well as for food. Yielding a fraction of the kernels of wheat, farro was later supplanted by more abundant grains. Yet with its hardy husk, farro is naturally protected from insects and can thrive in fairly barren, high-altitude areas. Growing wild in some places and not needing pesticides or fertilizers, the EU has certified farro as organic.
With a nutty, full-bodied flavor, farro is rich in fiber, vitamins and magnesium. Higher in protein than wheat, it is also easy to digest. Related cousins to farro are emmer and einkorn. Mistaken and not interchangeable with farro is spelt, a softer grain that will become more pasty when cooked.
Farro will benefit from an overnight soak or quick-soak before cooking. To quick-soak, rinse the grains, pick out any impurities, cover with twice the amount of water, bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Cover and let sit for an hour. Add additional water if needed, then continue with cooking until tender, about 1-2 hours. Drain before using.
Common in Italian soups and salads, used in risottos or ground into flour for pasta, farro is making an international comeback. Relive the Empire and enjoy some of the recipes below:
Mediterranean Farro Salad
Farro, Radicchio and Roasted Beet Salad
Farro Salad with Fried Cauliflower and Prosciutto
Chicken, Green Bean, Corn and Farro Salad with Goat Cheese
Farro with Coarse Pesto
Farro with Fennel and Carrots
Farro and Porcini Risotto
Mushroom and Farro Pie
Pan-Seared Veal Chops with Farro Ragout
Farro is often available at Whole Foods, Balducci’s and Dean & DeLuca as well as
Vace Italian Deli, The Italian Store and A. Litteri’s.
*Look for Farro Perlato, which indicates the tough hull has been removed and entails less cooking time.
Bookmark and share….