Farro is a group of three ancient hulled wheat grains that originated in the Fertile Crescent and includes spelt (Triticum spelta), emmer (Triticum dicoccum), and einkorn(Triticum monococcum). Farro is generally soaked overnight and cooked whole until al dente (soft with a slight crunch), like pasta. Farro, like all cereal grains, contains gluten, so it is not suitable for people who have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Farro has a slightly nutty flavor and is an excellent addition to soups, stews, and salads. When used as a replacement for rice when making risotto the resulting dish is called farrotto. Look for the semipearled variety, which needs no overnight soaking and cooks a little faster due to the removal of some of the bran (avoid pearled farro, which has no bran at all). If you can’t find farro, regular whole wheat berries (Triticum aestivum) or barley (Hordeum vulgare) can be used in its place.
Farro Caprese Salad
Recipe by Viola Toniolo
- 5 cups filtered water
- Handful of coarse salt
- 2 cups semipearled farro
- 1 lb tomatoes, diced (use flavorful varieties — cherry tomatoes, heirlooms, dry-farmed early girls, and vine-ripened varieties are all good choices)
- 12 oz fresh mozzarella, diced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 30 basil leaves, minced (keep a few for garnish)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add a generous handful of coarse salt, turn the heat to a simmer, and toss in the farro. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until al dente (soft with a slight crunch in the middle).
While the farro is cooking prepare the caprese. Mix the tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic, basil, and optional olives and pine nuts in a wide bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and a generous drizzle of olive oil and toss to combine.
When the farro is cooked to your liking, strain and toss with the rest of the ingredients while still warm. Garnish with extra basil leaves and serve warm or cold. Flavors intensify with time, so this is a great dish to make ahead of time.