Tuscan Farro and Bean Soup (Zuppa di Farro)

November 6, 2014

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Zuppa di Farro (farro and bean soup) is an institution in the walled town of Lucca and its surroundings. It is usually made with dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight and cooked the next day for superior texture and flavor, but canned beans work in a pinch.

It's served, as all good bean soups are, with a drizzle of good olive oil. A bowl of this washed down with a glass of red wine will keep you warm all winter long.
Emiko

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 1 hrs

Ingredients

  • 1 splash extra-virgin olive oil for serving
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ounces (50 grams) pancetta, about 4 thin slices
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 4 to 5 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 of a 14-ounce can (7 ounces or 200 grams) peeled tomatoes
  • 18 ounces (500 grams) of canned borlotti beans
  • 3 cups water or vegetable stock, more to taste
  • 1 cup (200 grams) of farro (semi-pearled or pearled, not whole grain)
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a wide soup pot or saucepan; add the chopped onion, carrot, and celery and gently cook until soft and translucent. Add the pancetta and continue cooking until the fat has melted. Add herbs and peeled tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the cooked borlotti beans, along with their liquid. (Note: if using dried beans for this recipe that you will cook yourself, begin with about 7 ounces or 200 grams dried beans, soak them overnight, and boil them in plenty of water until tender -- about one hour). Stir to combine everything and add 2 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cook 10 minutes uncovered, then remove from heat. Remove the rosemary stick and blend (an immersion blender is ideal for this) until smooth.
  3. Add the farro to the bean purée (along with another cup of water to loosen it, using more or less as necessary) and continue cooking over low heat for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every now and then to check that the soup is not sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the farro is cooked al dente (with a pleasant bite to it, like pasta). It should be a fairly thick soup but you can add more water to your liking. Check for seasoning.
  4. Serve the soup with freshly ground black pepper and extra virgin olive oil drizzled over the top.

More Great Recipes:
Soup|Tuscan|Italian|Celery|Grains|Bean|Carrot|One-Pot Wonders|Make Ahead|Fall|Winter|Dinner

Reviews (29) Questions (0)

29 Reviews

susan January 3, 2018
What is a brown onion, is that a shallot? Also, any recommendations for replacing the sage? I am a little hesitant since the flavor is so strong but the beans and farro sound delicious.
 
Author Comment
Emiko January 3, 2018
Apologies, that's just my Australian-ness coming through! We call brown-skinned onions 'brown onions' (are they 'yellow onions' in the US?) as opposed to red onions or white onions. You can use whatever you have on hand! The sage is extremely traditional and really a must but if you don't like the flavour, I would go with rosemary as another traditional herb, otherwise leave it out.
 
susan January 3, 2018
Thanks Emiko. It sounds like that is what we call a yellow onion. I will try the sage in small amounts, and increase if it works out ok. Thanks again.
 
Vivian H. April 16, 2017
This makes a very delicious soup!
 
bklyncook January 22, 2017
Is there any reason you couldn't cook the farro/barley separately and add it at the end? Would it affect the flavor/texture?
 
Author Comment
Emiko January 22, 2017
Farro is like rice in that it will readily absorb any of the flavours of the liquid you cook it in -- imagine cooking a risotto by adding the rice right at the end. So, yes, flavour would be compromised. And you'll have an extra pot to clean up! ;) I don't see any reason you'd benefit by cooking the farro separately!
 
ehall77007 June 20, 2016
Just found this today after a search for a soup I had at a restaurant in Lucca! I was so happy to find it. I made it for dinner tonight and it was delicious!
 
macfadden January 30, 2016
Pretty tasty, and wholesome and filling to boot.
 
BarbaraW January 11, 2016
I thought about that a as I have barley. reading some of my Italian cookbooks, similar recipes call for the whole grain and to pre soak it prior to cooking. So that's what I did and it is all in the soup pot now. Fingers crossed!<br />
 
BarbaraW January 31, 2016
Follow up- whole grain worked fine with the pre soak! Very yummy!
 
BarbaraW January 11, 2016
I can only find whole grain faro-is there an adaptation?
 
Author Comment
Emiko January 11, 2016
You could try barley instead?
 
Carmen P. April 27, 2015
Had a surprisingly cold, wet day, so this ended up being a perfect meal. I used a mix of bortelloti and white beans, parmesan rind, and went half and half with water and vegetable stock. I also only partially pureed the soup before adding the farro, make it a bit chunkier. Really enjoyed it.
 
Tonya March 31, 2015
I made it today and it was delicious! I used parmesan and barley instead of farro. I also added some lemon juice at the end, because it was missing something. And served with a bit of sour cream. Thanks for the recipe!
 
lobstaharmonica January 9, 2015
Do the 18 oz canned beans refer to the volume of the can (a 15 oz can plus a bit more from a second can)? Or the drained beans themselves (there are about 9 oz beans per can, which would mean two cans worth of drained beans)? Thanks!
 
Author Comment
Emiko January 9, 2015
Good question! It refers to the can itself as you will also use the liquid in the soup (ie no need to drain, just put it all in there!). This recipe is also very intuitive and adaptable to your own tastes; if you like it thicker, put more beans, by all means. If you like it thinner, add more water to adjust the consistency.
 
CarlaCooks December 2, 2014
I look forward to making this tomorrow for a nice cold-weather meal. I'm thinking of adding some chopped kale to it with the farro. Do you think that would be an ok addition, or will it be just too healthy? ;)
 
CarlaCooks December 7, 2014
I finally got around to making this tonight. So good! As my husband said, 'This tastes healthy, but not in a bad way.' I used 4 slices of bacon instead of the pancetta, vegetable stock, and added a parmesan rind to the broth after blending the beans. I used barley instead of farro since it's both easier and cheaper to find in Denmark (and I had some in the pantry). I didn't end up using kale (accidentally left it at work), but I could see how it would be a nice addition. Thanks for a lovely recipe!
 
Sascha C. December 1, 2014
The pictures suggest there are whole beans in the soup, yet the recipe says to blend it all into a puree. ?
 
Author Comment
Emiko December 1, 2014
What you're looking at in the photos is the farro! :) The beans (and rest of the ingredients) are completely blended until silky smooth!
 
Sascha C. December 1, 2014
Oh wow. I didn't realize farro would get so big when cooked. Thanks for sharing the recipe, looks awesome.
 
jessfood November 16, 2014
Hi - is the pancetta supposed to be chopped or left as sliced?<br />Thanks!
 
Author Comment
Emiko November 16, 2014
You can chop it roughly if you like, it's not so important really as the whole thing gets blended into a creamy liquid before adding the farro.
 
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MacKenzie C. November 15, 2014
What would be a good substitute for the pancetta if I want to make a vegetarian version of this soup?
 
Donna November 15, 2014
I put parmesan cheese rinds in my soups if I don't want to add any meat, but want that richness
 
Author Comment
Emiko November 16, 2014
Yes I too keep Parmesan cheese rinds in my fridge especially for this purpose of adding to soups! Real Parmesan is not strictly vegetarian, though (it is made with animal rennet) so if that is an important detail then you can simply leave it out but go with vegetable stock instead of water! It's delicious this way too, the beans are really what add richness to this dish.
 
heatheranne November 12, 2014
Looks awesome! Q - do you add the tomato juice as well, or just the tomatoes?
 
Author Comment
Emiko November 12, 2014
Yes, you can add some of that in too! If you prefer, smash up the tomatoes a bit while inside the tin and then just add about half of the tin contents - pulp, juice and all.