Thursday, April 30, 2015

Farrotto al pomodoro

When I made this, the wisteria was still blooming outside of our kitchen window. The weather was warm, the smell was divine and we kept the window open all day to make the most of that warm, scented spring breeze and lovely view. Every now and then, I cut off some of the flowers and livened up our table and my blog photos. 

That lasted about a week.

Now the flowers are gone and it has been raining and chilly. Our beautiful wisteria has gone back to being a flowerless nuisance, getting tangled in our rolling shutters, crumbling the stucco of the building façade and the paint on the pre-war wooden fixtures, attracting pigeons to nest in,  and making our kitchen pretty dark. I will admit that it helps keep the room cool in the blazing summer heat, but it also unfortunately hides the view of our building's quaint courtyard and magnolia tree.

But that is the cycle of life, of nature, is it not? And what makes it all the more special: nature shows itself for an instant in all of its ravishing, fleeting beauty, only to leave us with the memory of what was and what can be, for the rest of the year.
Luckily nature, besides providing vegetation with transient beauty, also offers a great variety of plants for our everyday nutrition. Some of these less-known varieties - like farro, which has been around for millennia - are experiencing a comeback.  
Clockwise: in the making
A farrotto is simply a risotto made with farro, or if you prefer, farro made using the risotto technique. You can use pretty much any ingredient to make this, just as you would in risotto, but here I used the most humble of pantry ingredients, canned tomatoes.
This dish is not gluten free, as some may think, because farro is a member of the wheat family, but it does offer a valid alternative to white rice, especially for those who are looking to substitute highly-processed white carbs. You may not be eating less calories, but what you are ingesting is a complex carb that breaks down slowly, making you feel fuller for longer. Farro is also a cholesterol-lowering fiber (about 8gr per cup versus the 4gr per cup provided by white rice!). Farro is rich in magnesium, vitamin B, and protein, and although I eat it for all of these reasons, our main reason for buying it is its nutty flavor and pleasantly chewy texture.*

400gr farro
1-1.5l vegetable stock
1 400gr can chopped tomatoes
1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, slivered or chopped
4-5 anchovy filets

Parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil

Heat some olive in a pot. Peel and dice/sliver the onion and garlic. Cook them in the olive oil on a low flame, until the onion is soft, then add the anchovy filets. When they have melted, raise the flame a little and add the chopped tomatoes (or you could add the farro beforehand to toast it a little). When all the flavors have melded, pour in the farro and start making the farrotto, by adding a little stock whenever the grains have absorbed most of the liquid and stirring a little. Constant stirring is not necessary, because the grains do not release starch like white rice would. Also, the hull doesn't stick as easily to the bottom of the pot. When the farro is ready (keep tasting, but it will remain al dente, with a little bite), serve immediately sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  

We sprinkled over a little Pimenton de la Vera this time (see above)

* Please note that this is a personal blog and that I am by no means a professional nutritionist, dietitian, or doctor. The information on this blog is purely based on my personal opinion, experience, and research.


  1. What a great recipe! Love the addition of the anchovies! My wisteria is gone, too, but at least it comes back in the fall...

  2. I second the comment above. I dont think I have ever tasted farro but the dish reminds me of our bulgur with tomatoes, with Italian flavors!

  3. My parents have a pergola covered in wisteria. They love it when it's flowering but over the years they've waged a war against the possums that can eat every flower before it blooms - if that happens we never hear the end of it. I love your farro risotto - it's a great, nutty grain xx

    1. Possums opens up a whole new range of wisteria-related problems ;o)

  4. I have really loved farro every time I've had it. So why don't I make more often?

  5. I love farro, but have never had farrotto. I need to try this with all the farro I am hoarding. (I hoard it because it was once really, really hard to get in the U.S. - now, I still hoard it even though Trader Joe even carries it!) Happy May - hope your weather warms up soon.

    I have 4 students from the Honors College at the University of Arizona coming to Milan for a three-week internship working with ITKI - the International Traditional Knowledge Institute. I am so excited for them - they will have the best time.

    1. That should be fun, with the Expo on and all that comes with it! If you have any questions about the city, don't hesitate to ask!

    2. Thanks! I didn't even know about the Expo. The kids are being supervised by one of our neighbors who happens to live half time here in Tucson, and half time there in Milan. They are both from Tuscany - she from near Carrara, he from Lucca. I will make sure to tell the students about the Expo - it might not be something our neighbors would think to tell them about - it looks like lots of fun from their website. If you think of anything else they must do, let me know. :)

  6. I have some farro here and I really like the nutty texture of it. I never thought to make risotto out of it!

  7. I have only tried farro once and have never tried making it, I think I am going to put my husband on this job(his cooking skills are way superior to mine). I think this might be something even the kids like- gasp.

  8. Yes, your flower the beautiful Wisteria would come back in due season, giving those pleasant scents and keeping you cool in summer. The farrotto in which the main ingredient is farro looks interesting, I have never tasted or known about it until I came across it in your blog.

  9. My parents have a wisteria vine and to be honest, it drives me insane. That's because like you say, it's only perfect for about one week a year and there's a lot of tension wondering just when that week will be. With great urgency I'll be given a phone call telling me I must come for lunch on Sunday to sit under the wisteria because, 'It's the week'. So we all have to rush over and the table is set under the vine that's grown over the pergola and we have to have photos and then it's all over for another year. It's a very beautiful flower but an annoying one as well - it shouldn't cause such angst! I do love farro and I like the photo of the bowls of 'risotto' with the wisteria flowers! xx

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  11. This definitely seems like a delightful dish! Where can I find farro?

  12. Thank you so much for the detailed article.Thanks again.

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