I first heard about farro a few years ago when it began appearing in cooking magazines and on restaurant menus, and since then it’s become one of my favorite grains to cook with. Farro is an ancient variety of wheat that has been grown in northern Italy for centuries, and has a nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture. It makes great risotto, can be ground into flour and is the perfect base for salads like the one below. Historians believe that one reason the Roman Empire was able to expand and dominate Europe was because they cultivated farro. It can be grown in challenging conditions and has twice the amount of protein and fiber as modern wheat. The broccolini and white beans in this salad add texture and flavor and the buffalo mozzarella gives it a little bit of sweet, creamy tang. Salsa verde – literally “green sauce” in Italian, is a bright, herbal sauce that is delicious on fish, meat, pasta and salads. When buying farro, look for “semi-pearled” which means that some of the outer bran has been removed. This farro will cook faster (in about 20 minutes) and doesn’t require any soaking first.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish
1½ cups semi-pearled farro
2 bunches broccolini, bottom ends trimmed and florets cut into bite size pieces
¼ cup olive oil
1 small white onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
1 14oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1½ teaspoons salt
2 large buffalo mozzarella balls, drained and diced (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
¼ cup tarragon leaves
1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon anchovy paste, or one anchovy in oil
2 tablespoons capers, drained
½ cup chopped scallions – white and green parts
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon pepper
Red pepper flakes for garnish
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and place a bowl of ice water next to it. Add the broccolini and cook for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccolini to the bowl of ice water. Once cool, drain the broccolini. Bring the pot of water to a boil again and add the farro. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the farro is translucent at the edges and just becoming tender – it should still be slightly chewy. Drain.
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the farro and salt and cook for another minute. Add the cannellini beans and broccolini and toss over medium heat for a minute or two, or until broccolini is warm. Turn off the heat and add the mozzarella, tossing gently. Transfer to a serving platter right away.
Put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until mixture is well incorporated, but still a little bit chunky, like salsa.
Drizzle the farro with salsa verde and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. I like to serve this salad warm, but it is also good at room temperature.