farro salad (insalata di farro)

Farro salad entered our lives through a fairy tale wedding in a 12th century church in Pisa, or more precisely through the ensuing reception in the hills of Tuscany out in the surrounding countryside. We'd already been doing farro pasta hoping that it might be more healthful than white flour pasta, but using the whole farro kernel took longer to learn about. However, it is very similar to barley, and in turn to big bulgur, both of which can be used to extend the idea of risotto by substituting the arborio (or similar risotto rices), while the latter in smaller processed form is already familiar as the grain complementing the veggies in the Lebanese salad tabbouleh, a frequent component of our mother-in-law's dinners, with diligent chopping contributions by her husband. In fact the Italian version of this grained-based Mediterranean salad is done with rice: insalata di riso, but it stretches a bit the American notion of salad, perhaps in the same way our potato salad is a bit far removed from the typical greens- and tomato-based salad that the unaccompanied word "salad" first brings to our mind. Insalata di farro is apparently a traditional recipe from Tuscany.

We googled "farro salad" and came up with many variations. Since we like arugula and had been lucky to frequently acquire the real jagged arugula leaves like Italians use rather than the rounded variety that is too often found in US supermarkets, we leaned towards the arugula versions. And with some faith in balsamic vinegar and parmigiano cheese, this simple recipe from Mary Ann Esposito seemed like a good place to start. One can use imagination here in combining different greens and veggies and seasoning solids and fluids. For example, Giada de Laurentis suggests tomatoes, sweet onion, chives, parsley, garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and olive oil. Others suggest tomatoes, arugula and (cooked shelled) fava beans as the add-ins. Or tomatoes and cucumbers with basil and lemon. Salt and pepper and olive oil of course.


1 c farro
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t salt
2 T balsamic vinegar
8 cherry tomatoes, halved [we used more of the tinier grape tomatoes, halved]
2/3 c shredded arugula leaves [we used the small delicate jagged arugula, so no need for shredding;
          we increased the amount to maybe 2 c unpacked]
grated pecorino cheese [we used shaved parmigiano on top].


  1. Cooking farro:
    If you can think ahead, cover the farro with water the night before and then to cook the next day, drain off the water and place in a 1 quart saucepan, cover with fresh water and cook until tender but not mushy (al dente!), about 15 minutes. Then drain and transfer to a bowl to cool.
    If you can't think ahead, you will have to cook it twice as long. Or you might try a 4 hour soak as a compromise. [Giada says cook with salt like pasta, but this seems to be the exception.]
  2. Mix up the olive oil with the cooled farro to coat all the kernels, and then combine well with the salt and balsamic vinegar.
  3. Rather than use the arugula as a bed for the farro as Mary Ann suggests and placing the tomatoes equally divided on 4 serving plates, just mix them in with the tomatoes, and use a generous amount of both.
  4. Drizzle some more olive oil over the top of the salad and either grate the pecorino (large grating) or shave the parmigiano over the top. Mix at the table when serving.
  5. Should serve more than 4 as a side dish. We had 10 at the table and had a bit leftover.


  1. Mary Ann Esposito, Ciao Italia in Tuscany (2003), Farro Salad from Tuscany.
  2. Check the internet for variations. Use your imagination. Sautéed mushrooms are a welcome addition, for example.
  3. Illustrations available.
farrosld.htm: 18-oct-2006 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]