Risotto is one of the best things you will ever eat. Risotto made with farro, instead of arborio rice, is even better.
Traditional risotto uses arborio rice because it turns lush and creamy as it cooks, whereas farro retains it’s sturdy bite even after soaked for hours. Farro risotto is both creamy and chewy with a toasty, nutty richness you won’t get from white rice. Per serving, farro delivers more protein and fiber than rice or pasta, leaving you more satisfied after the meal.
Farro risotto is prepared almost exactly like traditional risotto, except you can soak the grains first to speed up the cooking process. In this recipe, farro steams in a hot bath of vegetable broth spiked with garlic and onion. As the starch melts from the grain, it mixes with the liquid to form a rich, luxurious sauce that binds everything together. Fresh spinach and salty feta stirred in at the end punctuate the dish like lively exclamation points.
This version of risotto appeals to those of us with fond memories of the meal (probably from our favorite Italian restaurant) who seek a healthier option when making it for family or friends at home. It has the same impressive, conversation-stopping taste, loaded with an extra dose of iron and calcium.
The most difficult part of this recipe is remembering to soak the farro overnight, as this will reduce the cooking time at least by half, but it can still be done with farro soaked for 30 minutes at the least. You’ll be cooking for a bit longer, but you’ll also have time to enjoy that glass of dry Soave as dinner slowly comes together over a low flame.
You can substitute the vegetables based on the season or what you have on hand, just add any crunchy veg (like asparagus or zucchini) earlier in the cooking process rather than stirring it in at the end. You can also swap out feta for parmesan, gruyere, or even a lavish dollop of burrata- that would be stupid-good.
Other than swapping out arborio for farro, another change I make to this otherwise classic risotto recipe is adding balsamic vinegar. Risotto is salty, creamy, and lush, so it needs a little zip at the end- a round of applause for an already outstanding performance.
As a final garnish and to get even more produce on the plate, I add a vivid topping of cherry tomatoes that have been salted and peppered so that their juices hydrate the lip-smacking meal. Spooned over the risotto just before serving, they’re sweet and light against the savory density of the risotto, a contrast of both flavor and texture.
Elegant enough for a formal dining room, this risotto will remind you of the knockout meal you had at that Italian restaurant- except you can enjoy this version at an informal dinner table crowded with the people you love. It’s an untraditional take on one of Italy’s most traditional meals, with a nutritional profile that would still make nonna happy.
Risotto made with nutty farro, instead of rice, is creamy and delicious with an extra nutritious boost.
- 5-7 cups vegetable broth use water if you don’t have enough broth, just add some extra seasoning
- 1 diced onion about 1 cup
- Extra virgin olive oil as needed
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1.5 cups farro soaked 30 minutes or overnight, then drained
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 10 oz baby spinach
- 1 tsp fine sea salt more as needed
- 1 TB butter
- 1/2 cup feta cheese
- 1-2 TB balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup chopped cherry tomatoes seasoned with salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- ½ cup chopped parsley
Bring vegetable stock to a low simmer in a medium saucepan and keep warm.
Sauté onion in olive oil in a large skillet (preferably with high sides) over medium-low heat until soft, 8-10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add farro and cook about 2 minutes, stirring well. Increase heat to medium and add white wine. Let it cook down until almost all liquid has been absorbed, about 4 minutes.
Add two cups warm stock to the farro every 10 minutes or so, stirring and waiting until most of the liquid has been absorbed before adding the next two cups. Cook, adding stock as needed, until farro has softened but remains al dente, about 30 minutes total.
Stir in spinach, season with 1 TB of olive oil and 1 tsp sea salt. Cook until wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Add a final cup of vegetable stock or water at this point if the risotto seems too thick. Turn off heat, stir in butter, feta, and balsamic vinegar. Top with cherry tomatoes and parsley.