Ancient Grains: Farro


Walking through the city of Gubbio in Umbria I felt not like I was re-visiting the middle ages, but more that I was actually in them; that above me cloth was being stretched in the Loggia dei Tiratori, candles were being lit in the curiously bare cathedral while donkeys lugged sacks of grain up the very steep city streets.  The grain they would have eaten, and that still forms a cornerstone of the Umbrian table, is farro.  Plump, nutty, almost sweet, the most ancient of all grains is grown in Umbria, Abruzzo and in the Garfagnano area of Tuscany.  There are three types of Farro; farro piccolo; rarely used,  farro media; the most common form, best bought as semi perlato (semi pearled) so that it cooks easily but retains its goodness, and farro grande or farro spelto which is spelt, a much tougher slower cooking grain which has more relevance ground into spelt flour.

Farro is a high in vitamins and fibre and very low in gluten.  It is wonderful cooked into minestrone and winter soups, or used as a base for salads dressed with good extra virgin olive oil and mixed with summer vegetables.

My friend Monica often serves farro as a first course salad, and we found it all over menus on  a family adventure to Umbria this summer.  From an agriturismo near Assisi we made visits to Spello, Spoleto (photos) and extraordinarily medieval Gubbio.    I’m including a couple of Slow food Osterie in Umbria for the hungry traveller.
Assisi     Da Erminio, Via Montecavallo, 19. tel 075 812 506.  Closed thursdays.
Spoleto    Osteria del Trivio (photo) Via del Trivio, 16.  tel 0743 44349

Insalata di Farro
Serves 4

300 grams farro semi perlato
4 medium salad tomatoes, or 250 g cherry tomoatoes
1 small red onion
1 handful flat leaf parsley
2 sprigs oregano
2 springs basil
2 small zucchini, diced finely and marinated in lemon juice
Half a bunch rocket – chopped roughly
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Finely dice zucchini and leave to marinate in a glass bowl with lemon juice for at least half and hour.

Cook farro according to cooking instructions.  Drain and cool in serving bowl.
Dice tomatoes, rocket and chop fresh herbs and add to farro.  Drain off lemon juice and add zucchini, tossing everything well.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Choose a good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil and dress the salad with lashings off it just before serving.  Red wine vinegar is optional, just a dash.

10 thoughts on “Ancient Grains: Farro

  1. What a great reminder…it’s been so long since I’ve made farro!
    I am going to make this recipe tomorrow while the weather is still sunny and I can pretend I am in Lazio. 🙂 Gorgeous photos Alice!!!

  2. I like a plump grain. Thanks for the faro specification, I find it baffling. Sounds delcious – both place and salad. Will you make it for me please?

  3. Lovely. I did something similar yesterday. Got to love the infinite variety of grain salad.

    Re farro pioccolo, that’s Triticum monococcum, aka einkorn, aka enkir, which is starting to be used a bit more now. Mulino Marino use it in some of their flour (straight or in a mix). Though as with all these things there’s confusion, and the names einkorn/enkir are also used to refer to the wild relative, Triticum boeoticum. No idea which one Mulina Marino is using, but I’d assume it’s the domesticated one.

    Right, now I’m off to copy your marinated zucchini to add it to my salad from yesterday.

    1. You are great on latin botanical names Dan, I still think you should publish your fish species list. I once had marinated zucchini at Da Enzo in Trastevere, I was so short of ingredients the other day when I made my farro salad I chucked it in, it worked.
      How long do you two have left in Rome? Hope to see you before departure.

      1. I’ve been agonising over the whole “farro” thing for two years, and decided I had to try and learn the Latin names to get it straight! Could never do that with the fish names though, too much confusion (Alan Davidon’s book Mediterranean Seafood does a lot of the heavy lifting, but it’s a pretty old book now.)

        At the American Academy we also did deep-fried then marinated zucchine, alla scapace, which was also delicious..

        Enjoying the new blog Alice!

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