How to prepare farro
I'm reasonably sure that Umbria "the Green Heart" of Italy consumes more farro than any other region. Preparations are simple and basic; begin with a broth made from a prosciutto bone. You might be able to find prosciutto ends at Whole Foods if you ask nicely. Otherwise substitute a ham hock. Add water aromatics (onion, carrot, celery), salt and pepper, cook until it's a broth. Add the farro and grated parmigiano or a parmigiano rind. Cooking time should be about 2 hours in total.
Pierino, your version sounds totally delicious -- I'm doing that next time! I cook a big batch of plain farro on nearly a weekly basis -- I soak the farro (pearled) in cold water for 20 minutes, then drain and cover it again with fresh water. I add a few pinches of salt, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the farro is just tender but still has a nice bite. I drain it and then use it throughout the week in salads or "risottos," or simply heat it up, adding a little olive oil and grated parmesan and lots of black pepper.
Merrill, yes olive oil definitely belongs in there. The description above is more or less a Perugia style. In Assisi they probably do it differently. You can see Assisi from Perugia and vice versa.
Length of cooking time and whether or not to soak depends on if the farro is pearled or demi-perlato. I find that with demi-perlato or pearled 20 to 25 minutes with no soak is plenty of time. Whole farr requires a longer cooking time, like spelt or wheatberries.
I've been using a lot of farro this month at Whole Foods Market Greensboro. Bring 2 cups lightly salted water or stock to a boil and combine 1 cup farro. Simmer 25 or 30 minutes or until liquid is mostly gone and farro is puffed up. Remove from heat, drain liquid. One cup dry yields 3 cups cooked. Can be used in salads that normally use rice or as a substitute for oatmeal.
What I love about farro is that it is hard to mess up. I live in Denver where everything takes longer to cook and with farro I usually do 1 cup farro to 3 liquid- usually a broth of some sort. Then I can either strain it earlier for a chewier bite or let it get softer. We, too, eat it weekly and lately our favorite thing to do is toss it with an herb paste (whatever is on hand: mint, tarragon, parsley, cilantro,basil blended with s&p and good olive oil), fold in some caramelized onions, chopped nuts (loving the s&p pistachios right now), peppery greens (arugula is coming out our ears right now) and shaved parmesan. Then we eat it as is or top with a poached egg or grilled chicken or fish. Filling and versatile.
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