New Grains, Old Grains

Very often, we eat what we're given - what's abundant and available. I know this to be very true in the States, but it's also increasingly the case in England. This is odd, considering the proximity to Europe and all of the diverse foods found therein. So it came as a bit of a shock when I had to track down farro in London. Farro is to Italians what spelt is to us - same thing, different name. It's an ancient grain which we find most often in flour, bread, or pasta form. I happen to LOVE spelt pasta and flour - it has the exact same consistency as regular wheat flour but is much easier on the digestive system and is far better for your health. Let's take a look at some health benefits of spelt/farro (and other whole grains):*

  • Source of vitamin B2, niacin, copper, thiamin, and manganese - this all means it will benefit you greatly if you suffer from migraines or diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack
  • Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • A great source of insoluble fiber, which protects against gallstones and breast cancer
  • Also a good source of protein

While on vacation in Tuscany, we came across farro salads everywhere - similar to the quinoa salads we love to make at home. Once I tracked down a bag of farro back home in London, I thought it would make a nice substitute for rice in a risotto-type dish. And after a bit of googling, it seemed I wasn't the only one with that idea! Farro risotto is everywhere - but the word "risotto" is a bit misleading. It is nothing like the consistency, texture, or flavor of a typical risotto, and it certainly isn't made in the same way. But that doesn't mean it isn't a wonderful dish for dinner. With autumn fast approaching, give it a try (if you can find some farro for yourself!) - but if you can't find the whole grain, pick up a bag of spelt pasta or spelt flour and try it instead of the regular stuff next time you're having an Italian dinner or baking something delicious. You might love it!

Here's my first attempt at farro risotto - it's a definite keeper. The nuttiness of the farro combined with the slight sweetness of the squash and the punch of herby goodness? It all works together really well. Even Phil loved it and he's a risotto fanatic.

Farro Risotto with Butternut Squash

Serves two; recipe adapted from good housekeeping

The particulars:

  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup farro (could use brown rice instead - increase stock amount)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 2/3 cup vegetable stock in boiling water
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • optional: 1/8 tsp chili flakes
  1. In a large skillet or wok (which has a lid), add some olive oil, the onion, and salt & pepper. Cook until the onion is tender.
  2. Add the farro and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly
  3. Add the white wine and cook until absorbed
  4. Pour in the hot vegetable stock, thyme, and rosemary. Cover with a lid and heat to boiling point. Then stir in the butternut squash pieces and reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the farro is just tender (mixture will be soupy). You may need longer depending on the type of farro you have.
  5. Uncover and cook 1-2 minutes longer over a very high heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan, parsley, and red chili flakes (if using).

* I am not a medical professional, but I am studying to become a nutrition consultant. If you have any questions or would like any more information, please feel free to email me or leave a comment. Any nutrition advice I offer on the blog is supplemental to any medication you may be taking for a pre-existing condition.