farrotto with wild mushrooms

Farro. Spelt or emmer in English. We were late in acquiring our appreciation for this ancient Italian grain which is very similar to barley, a bob favorite. Looking for whole grain pasta products, its dark color came to our attention in the pasta lean years of South Beach diet influence, and we went for it hoping its advertised nutritional benefit would grace our lives. But it was our trusted Italian food store Carlino's which taught us about farrotto, or farro risotto. Needless to say, risotto took a big hit at the same time as the white flour pasta products, and we had been really big into both food groups in our cuisine habits, so this seemed to offer a guilt-free way to work risotto back into the program without the white rice down side. Apparently one can basically replace arborio rice by semipearled farro (triticum dicoccum) in any risotto recipe, but this one was our first experience.

We adjusted the original big family style recipe which called for a whole pound of farro, which is more than 2 cups. The almost insignificant amount of shallots suggested for that quantity were promoted to a whole onion because we like onions. The Carlino recommended Pastore Sini cheese was not on our shopping list, in fact we forgot it completely, but by chance picked up a pecorino cheese we'd sampled in the store (very tasty, it pays to give away free samples) and after googling the former, realized that it would nicely substitute. As for the mushrooms, the question is always: wash or brush? The criminis seemed flecked with black stuff so we brushed them as best we could and hoped for the best. The others seemed to pass the superficial amateur eye pass test and we just directly chopped them.

After all our hopes and expectations, we were not disappointed. Risotto with a barley edge, still creamy. The semipearled farro is a bit pricey but then so was arborio rice in the early days. We'll make the sacrifice. It's worth it.


1/4 c olive oil
1 onion, chopped
8oz pack mix of crimini, oyster, shitake mushrooms
1/4 c white wine
3 c (roughly) of veggie broth
1 c farro semiperlato (semipearled)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c freshly grated pecorino montes tipo foggiano or any Italian pecorino
   plus a grating over each serving (or parmigiano if you forget to shop)


  1. Start 3 cups of water boiling in a teapot and reduce the heat when it starts singing.
  2. Meanwhile prepare the mushrooms: clean and chop. Same for the onion.
  3. Sauté the onions until softened (translucent?), then toss in the chopped mushrooms and cook them down until they are softened (translucent?).
  4. Toss in the farro and mix it up just like in the risotto process, sautéing it a moment, then splash with the white wine and evaporate off, a minute or so.
  5. Add a cup of boiling veggie stock (boiling water plus enough concentrate for 3 cups stock) and  grate in some black pepper and shake lightly a little salt to taste.
  6. Cover and simmer for about 50 minutes while continuing to monitor the water content and adding replacement 2/3 c at a time (approximate) until the al dente test gives the green light and the last hit of water is nearly absorbed.
  7. Mix in the pecorino and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.
  8. Serve with freshly grated cheese on each serving.


  1. Our farro came from the Bartolini farm in Umbria (the new Toscana) in a 500g package (17.6 oz = 1.1 lb) which suggested it needs at least 30 minutes to cook. Thank you global economy?
  2. Our exotic mushroom mix presented itself at just the right moment, on a shelf at Trader Joes, from the Franklin Farms stateside.
  3. We forgot about the Pastore Sini cheese requested by the original recipe, but lucked out with a serendipitous substitution.
  4. "Mamma Carlino" said: 1 lb farro, Pastore Sini cheese (grated), 1/4 c each of shitake, crimini and button mushrooms (washed and sliced), 1/4 c white wine, 2 qts vegetable stock, 2 T shallots (chopped), 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper [September 2005].
  5. This is very similar in texture to barley risotto, which we had already given a try, almost.
  6. Illustrations available.


We've tried a few approaches to farro, but the basic cooking does not need to be complicated. To save time, they can be pressure cooked carefully. First a precook phase bringing the farro up to steam momentarily with plenty of water. Which will foam up dangerously. Do a quick pressure release cool down and rinse the farro and start over. Three times the amount of farro in liquid. 15 minutes at full steam. That seems to do the trick.

farrotto with green garbanzo beans and artichoke hearts 07-01?

Like risotto, once you've got the hang of farotto, you can do as many variations as you like. Motivated by some aging arugula that had to be cooked or else, we looked for some more substantial add-ins to create a one dish meal for the end of a work day. Well, at least one of us worked. [That would be the wage slave—not the professor who was on winter break.] No mushrooms left, not even in a can. Ah, but we find some Trader Joe's frozen green garbanzo beans never before tried, and some infrequently housed celery in the fridge, and ani pulls out the canned artichoke hearts. Sounds like maybe too much in the same dish but why not?

The professor started with the onion in oil while the wage slave showered down from the after work workout. The thing about farrotto compared to risotto is that you don't have to play the adding water game. No white wine open to do that either so we just tossed in the farro and sautéed it up a bit and poured in the boiling water with veggie broth add-in and let it go. This farro was pearled or semi-pearled, so it only took 30 minutes of hard boiling. Early on we added the frozen garbanzos and remembering the celery, sautéed it on the side and dumped that in too, and the artichoke hearts, diced. Towards the end when the water was still somewhat reluctant to disappear, we covered it to help finish cooking the farro, also still chewy as revealed by the al dente taste test. After 5 minutes it was perfect. So in went the arugula and salt and pepper adjustment  and then the generous servings with freshly grated parmigiano over each. The obligatory digital photos and then the moment of truth. Was this a kitchen sink ingredient kind of disaster, or a hit?

Ani is the first to rave but bob concurred. She had already dished out an entire plate for him, so he was able to resist doing seconds. Ani was not. Green garbanzo beans. Who would have ever thought?


1/4 c olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 c farro semiperlato (semipearled) (or not, may take a bit longer)
3.5 c (roughly) of veggie broth
1 c frozen green garbanzo beans (or substitute edame)
1 14 oz can of artichoke hearts, diced
salt and pepper to taste
several c of arugula, washed
parmigiano grated directly onto each serving


  1. Start 4 cups of water boiling in a teapot and reduce the heat when it starts singing.
  2. Meanwhile prepare the onion and celery: clean and chop.
  3. Sauté the onions and celery until softened, then toss in the farro and stir around occasionally for a few minutes.
  4. Add 3.5 c of the boiling veggie stock (boiling water plus sufficient concentrate) and grate in some black pepper and shake lightly a little salt to taste.
  5. Add in the garbanzos and artichokes.
  6. Cover or not and simmer for about 30 minutes until the al dente test gives the green light and the last hit of water is nearly absorbed.
  7. Add in the arugula and let wilt.
  8. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary.
  9. Serve with freshly grated cheese on each serving.


  1. The word "concur" is in our heads thanks to Leonardo di Caprio's doctor line in Catch Me if You Can.
  2. Trader Joe farrotto with green garbanzo beans and arugula.
    A month later, this previous recipe is forgotten, although the half bag of frozen green garbanzo beans is still in the freezer. Trader Joe's has meanwhile offered a new product "spelt with red and green bell peppers" in an 8.8oz (250g) package with both a grilled portobello farro salad and a farrotto recipe on the sides to acquaint the new users with an easy entry into the farro world. It appears to be about 1 1/2 c of dried stuff, with 4 c boiling broth recommended for the water content. Some leftover wild rice (about 2/3 c) and a handful of chopped white mushrooms (separately sautéed before adding in at the end) added to the farrotto this time after sautéing a finely chopped onion with two large pressed cloves of garlic and then adding the farro mixture to absorb a little flavor before pouring in 2 c of boiling water first added to the veggie broth (quantity for 4 c total). We threw in about a cup of the garbanzos and pretty quickly the rest of the broth. No real need to add the broth a bit at a time like arborio rice. This is salty enough not to need much extra salt, but freshly ground pepper is merited. This particular farro only needed about 30 minutes of boiling and then we (okay, only bob) just covered it and turned off the heat while chauffeuring off to pick up the working woman. When ani arrived from her after work workout, and after a quick shower, we reheated slightly the still warm pot of stuff which had absorbed the rest of the liquid and she suggested adding some fresh arugula. Together with a hit of parmigiano in the pot, and then on the individual servings, this was a ready to go dinner, supplemented by a couple of hefty crab cakes from the Food Source. Another success, and one fulfilling bob's long standing barley urges with a more nutritious look alike.
  3. Illustrations available.
farrotto.htm: 26-feb-2007 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]