I discovered risotto when I was 27 years old. Before that, my only experience of anything even remotely risotto-like came from a box or involved a can of cream of mushroom soup. For a time, I made it every week as a way to stretch leftovers.
Lately I’ve been trying to eat more whole grains and fewer things that are blindingly white. I thought this meant that I’d need to give up my risotto habit entirely, but I’ve discovered that white rice isn’t the only grain with which one can make a savory pudding that stretches the end of a roast chicken into a brand-new meal.
I’ve tried it with barley, wheat berries and even oat groats, but the grain that has come out on top is definitely farro. Though some people argue about what farro is exactly, most typically believe it’s the whole-grain version of cereal crops known as einkorn, emmer and spelt.
A risotto made with farro won’t be quite as creamy as one made with rice, but it is worth making nonetheless. I really enjoy the sturdiness and texture of the grain. Unlike traditional risottos, this version reheats beautifully (though sadly, that means there’s no need to make risotto cakes).
At the moment, I’m partial to the Wild Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Farrotto that Guy Fieri makes. The mushrooms give it meatiness and the tomatoes add the necessary acid. I like to serve it alongside a crunchy winter salad like this one from Melissa d’Arabian. However you eat it, this farro risotto is a perfect savory treat for your Weekender.
Before you start cooking, read these tips:
— Guy instructs you to parcook the farro for 15 to 20 minutes. I found that mine needed nearly 25 minutes before the grains were at all yielding to the tooth, so make sure to test yours before draining.
— Do make sure to seek out a low-sodium chicken stock if you haven’t made your own. When you make any kind of risotto, you concentrate that stock, so if you’re not careful, you can end up with an overpoweringly salty dish.
— I found that the Parmesan cheese actually pushed this dish into the too-rich zone. I’d suggest that you taste your risotto before adding the cheese to ensure that you end up with something right for you.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her second cookbook, Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces, is now available for pre-order.