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Author Notes: I've started experimenting with farro and love the chewey texture it adds to dishes, along with the health benefits of a whole grain. This is a great winter salad for lunch or dinner for a cold winter day, but it also works well as a cold salad to take on a hike. I used pancetta, but this could easily be eliminated for a vegetarian dish. I loved this combination of flavors and textures, but what really made it work for me were the sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. —TheWimpyVegetarian
- 1/2 cup dried farro grain (you will only use 1 cup of the cooked grain)
- 4 cups vegetable broth, preferably homemade
- 1 10-oz can cannellini beans, or freshly cooked
- 5 slices pancetta, chopped
- 1/2 large red onion, diced
- 1 leek, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups butternut squash, diced
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/4 cup Gruyere cheese
- 1 tablespoon finely grated Pecorino plus more for garnish
- 2 - 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- Soak the farro grain in a lot of water for at least a couple hours, preferably overnight. Drain and rinse. Note: it is not necessary to pre-soak the grains; it only shortens the cooking time when you go to cook the farro.
- Make vegetable broth: cut up 2 yellow onions, 4 celery stalks including the leafy tops, 2 carrots, 1 leek and add to a heavy pot with a very small amount of oil. If you want your broth to be a little spicy, add 1 chopped serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped. Brown the veggies over medium-high heat to brown, about 15 minutes. Add 12 cups of water, fresh thyme and a bay leaf and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes and add additional more tender vegetables if desired. I typically add the hearts of my butter lettuce and romaine, chopped up. Boil for an additional 30 minutes, longer if desired depending on how strong you want the broth. For this recipe, I boiled the vegetable broth an additional hour so it would hold up well to the farro.
- Cook the farro in about 4 cups of the vegetable broth until slightly chewy, about 45 min - 1 hour if you don't pre-soak the grain; or about 10-15 minutes if you do. Drain and set aside. The time is variable depending on how long you soaked the grain. The longer you soaked the grain, the shorter time needed to cook the farro. Reserve the rest of the vegetable broth for other uses.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the diced butternut squash in a little olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper and roast until tender. Roast on a baking sheet until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Fry the chopped pancetta in a large saute pan. When crispy, add the leeks and red onions. When the leeks and onions are soft, add 1 cup of the cooked farro, beans, squash, red pepper flakes (if using), sun-dried tomatoes, both cheeses and half of the balsamic vinegar. Taste. If you want more balsamic vinegar, add the rest. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with the chopped Italian parsley and a little grated Pecorino cheese and serve. Eat and enjoy with some fresh bread and butter.