Zuppa di Farro (Tuscan Farro Soup)
We are well into soup season and winter weather will continue for several more months for many of us. It’s nice to have a few good soup recipes in your repertoire to help warm us both inside and out. And if the soup is good enough for company, that’s an added bonus!
Friday night I had my wine club over for our second round of tasting Tuscan wines. Two of the wines were super-Tuscans made with lots of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. These were big, sophisticated wines that are perfect with beef dishes. A couple of the members don’t eat beef or pork, however, so I wanted to make sure I had something that they would be able to enjoy with the wines. Mushrooms are often a good choice but I decided to go with the rich, earthy grain, farrro.
Farro is an ancient wheat that has recently regained popularity due in part to people like Bluebird Grain Farms who are making it available and educating us about it. It’s got a great nutty, earthy taste and remains firm and chewy even after extended cooking. In fact, you need to allow plenty of cooking time to allow farro to get to the right consistency.
Because this soup comes together very quickly and then just needs time to simmer until the farro is cooked, it’s a great option for company. Your work is done early and the soup is not fussy about needing to be served at a certain time. If guests are late or the pre-dinner conversation goes longer than expected the soup will patiently wait for you. On Friday, I made it early in the day, then let it cool and slowly reheated it about 30 minutes before I planned to serve it.
Zuppa di Farro
adapted from Biba’s Italy, by Biba Caggiano
- 1/3 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 carrot, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 5 – 6 fresh sage leaves, shredded or a pinch of dried sage
- 1 28 oz can of Italian plum tomatoes with juices
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 pound farro (about 2 1/2 cups)
Soak the farro in cold water for 2 or 3 hours before cooking to help soften it. With the type of farro I use this step could be skipped but it doesn’t hurt to do it either. You may need to allow more cooking time if you skip this step.
Remove the seeds from the tomatoes by putting through a food mill. If you don’t have a food mill you could also use a blender to help chop the seeds a little but make sure the tomatoes still have some texture to them. Do not blend them until they are pure liquid.
Heat the 1/3 cup of oil in medium pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, carrot and celery. Cook until the vegetables are soft and lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
Add the sage and stir for one minute. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and then bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce has slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
In a large pot bring the chicken stock to a boil. Drain and rinse the farro and then add it to the stock. Bring the stock back to a boil and then add the vegetable sauce to the pot. Reduce the heat and simmer until the farro is tender and the soup has a thick consistency, 40 – 60 minutes.
Place in bowls and serve with a little drizzle of olive oil.
Note: If you can’t find farro, I think pearl barley or lentils would also work well in this recipe.