Farro Risotto With Mushrooms

Farro is a very popular grain here in Umbria and is often used in salads during warmer months, and in soups or as a side dish when the temperatures cool. It is a very healthy grain with a slightly nutty taste and chewy texture that can be used in many different recipes. Farro is cooked like rice and expands into a plump, chewy berry, which can then be used as a side dish, in place of rice in risotto as in this recipe, as a grain based salad, and in soups and stews. Cracked, it can be used as a polenta or porridge. It also can be milled into flour to make extraordinary pastas, like the popular umbricelli found in Umbria. Barley and farro may be used interchangeably because of their similar characteristics, but you may have to adjust your cooking times.

I have had farro “risotto” in a number of restaurants here in Umbria but have never made it myself at home until recently. I adapted my recipe from one I found on epicurious.com but it took a couple of tries before I was able to get just the right texture and flavor I was after. In this recipe, the farro soaked overnight, and then is mixed with sauteed mushrooms and cooked in the same method as you would risotto. I used a pound package of frozen mixed mushrooms, but you could use any mushrooms fresh or frozen you prefer. Just before serving, the dish is topped with some toasted hazelnuts which really adds a nice crunch and the nuts compliment the nutty flavor of the farro nicely.

Serves 4
by Deborah Mele

1 Cup Dried Farro

1 Pound Chopped Mixed Mushrooms

1 Small Onion, Peeled And Diced

2 Tablespoons Butter

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

3 – 4 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth, Kept Warm

1 Cup Dry White Wine

Salt & Pepper

To Finish:

2 Tablespoons Butter

3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese

1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley

To Serve:

1/2 Cup Toasted, Chopped Hazelnuts

Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese

At least 6 hours before you plan to use the farro, place it in a bowl and cover with water. In a heavy saucepan, heat the butter and oil and then add the onions and mushrooms. Cook until softened and cooked through. Drain the farro and stir into the pot with the mushrooms. Add the white wine and continue to cook until it is almost absorbed. Continue to cook the farro over medium low heat stirring often, adding one ladleful of hot broth at a time. Once the broth gets absorbed, continue to stir and add more broth until the farro is tender to the bite but still retains some chewiness. You do not want mushy farro! Season the farro with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Add the butter, chopped parsley, and grated cheese and stir until combined

Serve in individual bowls topped with some chopped hazelnuts and offer additional cheese at the table.

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