Fresh Recipes With an Ancient Grain: 4 Ways to Prepare Farro

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It's not like farro is new; actually it's anything but. More than likely this ancient wheat dates back to long before the time when modern wheat was readily available. I can't even say that it's new to the U.S.—it's been available here for many years now. But for some reason, it's only in the last few months that I've actually "discovered" it.

Farro is an old grain that dates back to pre-Roman times probably. The Latin name, if I have my words right, is Triticum dicoccum.

If you're like me and you knew next to nothing about farro before finding this little piece here, it's an old grain that, as I said, dates back to pre-Roman times probably. The Latin name, if I have my words right, is Triticum dicoccum. It's somehow related to spelt but seemingly isn't spelt despite the fact that many people present it as such. Glenn Roberts, from Anson Mills, who's a master of these things, gave me a long discourse on the subject of the sort that only Glenn can give, sharing more tiny details than even I can keep track of (which, as you might have guessed, means it was a LOT of details). Suffice it to say that the man knows his seed history, traditional grain growing and milling methods, and that, honestly, everything that he grows and grinds—we get grits, polenta, corn meal for mush, and Carolina Gold rice, just to name a few—is incredibly good. The thing to know for now is that farro is clearly related to spelt and another ancient grain that goes by the name of emmer.

Regardless of family tree and genetic tracing work, farro tastes terrifically good. We've been serving farro a lot of late at the Roadhouse, a whole-grain farro piccolo (the hard to find, smallest size) by Glenn at Anson Mills. It's fantastic. Definitely smaller in size, and I think a bit nuttier and fuller of flavor. At the Deli we've got a bigger-grained farro medio that comes from the Gragnano region of Italy, courtesy of the folks at Rustichella pasta, who send us pretty much nothing but really good things, and this stuff is no exception. You can buy either to cook at home.

Here are some ways to prepare this really good, really easy to cook, really versatile, and really good for you ingredient.

With Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper

Farro's not hard to cook—most recipes call for soaking it overnight, in which case the cooking time is really no more than a few minutes. Being more of an in-the-moment cook, I just boil it straight from the bag (okay, I rinse it quickly before it goes into the boiling water) with a bit of salt for about 30 to 40 minutes 'til it's tender. You can go to any degree of doneness you like; I prefer it a bit more on the firm side, so it's got a bit of nice al dente chew left in the middle. When it's done, just drain it and dress it up with really good olive oil, some sea salt, and whatever else you want, and serve it as you would pasta, rice, or beans. If you're going green you can add a bunch of chopped kale or sliced thin collards to the cooking water so that they're done when the farro is finished. If you have a chunk of bacon or a parmesan rind sitting around you can put those in the cooking water too. When the farro's ready, just drain, dress, and go straight to soup bowl and spoon away.

Presented by

Ari Weinzweig is co-founder of Zingerman's Community of Businesses, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is also the author of Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating. More

After graduating from University of Michigan with a degree in Russian history, Ari Weinzweig went to work washing dishes in a local restaurant and soon discovered that he loved the food business. Along with his partner Paul Saginaw, Ari started Zingerman's Delicatessen in 1982 with a $20,000 bank loan, a staff of two, a small selection of great-tasting specialty foods, and a relatively short sandwich menu. Today, Zingerman's is a community of businesses that employs over 500 people and includes a bakery, creamery, sit-down restaurant, training company, coffee roaster, and mail order service. Ari is the author of the best-selling Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating and the forthcoming Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon.

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