Farro Risotto with Caramelized Apples and Fennel

October  6, 2013
12 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6 as a side
Author Notes

This dish is all about the balance between savory and sweet fall flavors. I find that I can't get enough apples this time of year—raw, in cider, or in sauce. I thought apples would be a wonderful complement (in chunks and using the cider to cook) to hearty farro risotto, but I didn't want the dish to be too sweet so I balanced it with savory onions, garlic, and fennel, topping everything with sharp chèvre. The toasted walnuts add a necessary crunch and a bit of orange zest makes the whole dish bright. This dish pairs well with roast pork and chicken. —meganvt01

Test Kitchen Notes

Megan's Farro Risotto is a comforting, fall-inspired party side dish. The creaminess of the risotto and the tartness of the apples worked surprisingly well together and the crunchy walnut topping and hint of orange zest gave it a well-rounded finish. I served this with a roasted whole chicken and a glass of earthy Tempranillo. I am definitely looking forward to serving this again!  —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the caramelized apples and fennel:
  • 1 large honeycrisp apple, peeled and chopped (about 1.5 cups)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • For the farro risotto:
  • 1 1/2 cups farro (rinsed and soaked in water for 20 minutes then drained)
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup chèvre, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. For the caramelized apples and fennel:
  2. This can be done concurrently with the risotto. In a large skillet over medium heat melt the butter with the olive oil and add the apples and fennel. Salt and stir.
  3. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. At first the mix will release liquid then they will start to cook down -- after about 10 minutes, keep an eye on them so they don't get too brown. When they are tender and brown, deglaze the pan with the wine scraping up any brown bits. Reserve.
  1. For the farro risotto:
  2. Add the chicken broth and apple cider to a saucepan. Maintain on a very low simmer during the cooking of the risotto.
  3. In another saucepan add the olive oil and onions and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  4. Add the drained farro and stir to coat. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently and allowing the grains to toast slightly. Add the white wine and cook until the liquid is almost absorbed.
  5. For the next 30 minutes (approximately), add the cider/broth mixture to the farro mixture by ladlefuls. Stir after each addition and cook until the liquid is almost absorbed. Repeat until the farro is tender but still al dente (or to your desired doneness).
  6. When you add the last ladleful of the broth/cider mixture and the liquid is almost gone, add the caramelized apples and fennel, fennel seeds, orange zest, Parmesan, and butter. Stir and season to taste.
  7. Put the farro in a serving dish and top with chèvre, toasted walnuts, and parsley. Serve immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Catherine
  • Risottogirl
  • Mae
  • Lazyretirementgirl
  • Megan

Recipe by: meganvt01


26 Reviews

Ro R. January 26, 2022
I was a little disappointed as I didn’t find this as flavourful as other reviews would indicate following the recipe as is. Maybe a little more fennel seed and I think I’d use a tart apple (and more of it) next time. I’ll also use a little less Parmesan, which seemed too dominant. Like some others, I hadn’t tried farro before. I couldn’t find any pearled farro, but the soaking in advance seemed to keep cooking time on track. Notwithstanding that I didn’t hit optimal flavour on the first try, it’s an intriguing mixture and I’ll try to tweak it to suit my taste. Thanks for posting it.
Catherine November 26, 2021
I wasn't a fan of farro until this recipe. Full of flavor and easy to make. And best part... the leftovers are even better the 2nd day.
Bernadette October 20, 2021
OMG!!!! The flavours!!!! I highly recommend this .... well worth the time spent stirring the farro ... watching it get creamier and creamier. It was the first time I cooked fennel (I'm 65 years old!) ... not a fan of licorice/anise ... so was a little skeptical ... but was more than thrilled with the result. Have saved in my Favorites file ... will definitely make again!!!!
Risottogirl September 3, 2020
This is wonderful topped with a couple of seared scallops...my hubs' favorite. When I serve it that way I omit the goat's cheese and walnuts and sub fennel frond for the parsley. I typically use hard rather than sweet cider and veg broth because I always have a ton of homemade on hand (thanks Instant Pot). We eat a lot of fennel here so the scraps go into my veg stock. I also use a more tart apple because we have two mystery apple trees and the apples are tart! My husband requests this every few weeks!
kimmiebeck February 2, 2019
This was delicious! I added dried cranberries.
Mae January 19, 2018
I've made this a few times, each time adjusted based on what I've had on hand. Last night I was able to follow the recipe more closely (still not to a T), and it is so good, and unique! I love the orange zest and toasted nuts (I used pecans). I used all vegetable broth because the cider that I have is very sweet. Also omitted the cheese because I don't do dairy. This would be a really good holiday dish.
Vivian T. October 22, 2017
I made this for the first time for a dinner party last night, wish I had done a test run. I pre-soaked the farro longer than suggested, and even after an hour of cooking, the grain was still very chewy. It was also very sweet, so I would change the proportion of stock to cider, but it was a good accompaniment to roast chicken. The farro was from Grain, so I know it was top quality
Tavo February 2, 2021
Was the Farro pearled,or I pearled? Make sure you use pearled for this recipe, or it will need a longer Cook time.
Tavo February 2, 2021
If you use unpearled Farro, it will take much longer to cook. I use pearled Farro for this
Lazyretirementgirl October 1, 2017
Two thoughts: one of the joys of Farro Risotto is no need to madly stir the whole time. It does fine by itself and, second, looks like a main dish to me. Jes’ sayin’.
meganvt01 October 1, 2017
One stir for every addition of stock is hardly “madly” and if you want this as a main do so. What was the point of that comment??
Marlene T. October 1, 2017
Kind of rude
Jane February 2, 2020
Considering the date this recipe was published this may not apply now, but since the reader comments are still being shown, here goes: I thought the the comment from "Lazy" was a very positive one, not rude at all. Her two thoughts were that she felt joy about not having to stir the risotto constantly, and she was happy it could be used as a main dish for dinner. These are both things that would be appealing to me about this recipe. The negative tone from the author and Marlene are definitely unappealing.
Risottogirl September 3, 2020
I agree. I thought perhaps Marlene T. was commenting on the author's response rather than Lazy's comment.
rbkitchen January 30, 2016
wondering to use apple cider (fresh unpasteurized juice type)...or hard cider??
QueenSashy January 30, 2016
I used both and they both work. Using hard cider is similar to increasing the proportions of broth and wine in the original recipe. If you are using apple cider, try it first to make sure that it is not overly sweet. If it is, use a little bit less and add more broth.
Risottogirl September 3, 2020
I knew just looking at the amount that regular sweet cider would be too sweet for our taste so I have always used hard. I do think if you are looking at this for a sweetish fall side, the sweet cider might work quite well. Or maybe topped with pork medallions?
Megan January 19, 2016
This was really lovely & delicious. I used diluted beef broth because it's what I had on hand and it worked great. My farro was pearled farro and I did not need all of the liquid.
QueenSashy January 14, 2016
This is one of my favorite dishes on the site. It's earthy and welcoming, like a warm hug on a cold day. I try to use medium sweet cider to make it, but if your cider is a bit more on the sweet side, 2:4 cider to broth ratio is the way to go. And I do not use orange zest -- found it a bit overpowering, but that's just me.
Laura415 November 14, 2015
I'm thinking of adding a splash of dry hard cider so it won't be too sweet. Anybody try this?
MiriamI December 22, 2013
Just did the Charlie Bird's Farro with cider and I'm not convinced about cooking it in cider . . .
kathy A. October 4, 2017
Miriam--I cooked Charlie Bird's Farro once with out cider (some lemon juice instead), and then the next time with cider vinegar. SO MUCH BETTER without the cider vinegar! I was just going to compare these two recipes to figure out how to adapt without the vinegar!
DianneD December 22, 2013
There must be something to cooking farro in cider as Melisa Clark just published "Charlie Bird's Farro Salad" in the NYTimes last week. The farro is cooked in cider as well. I will put both recipes on my to do list.
Abbey December 13, 2013
I'm making this tonight. Can't wait!
foxeslovelemons October 25, 2013
Warm congratulations on the CP! This dish is right up my alley, because I just started cooking with cider myself, AND I'm planning to make farro risotto of some sort next week! Lovely recipe!
em-i-lis October 11, 2013
This sounds lovely, megan!