Farro Risotto with Greens and Feta

April 18, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This is a very simplified version/adaptation of the barley risotto with marinated feta recipe in Jerusalem. I encourage you to look up the original if you want to give this the real Ottolenghi treatment.

The changes I have made can be summarized as follows:

I omit the butter and use olive oil exclusively. I omit the celery and use 1 onion in place of the shallots. I use farro in place of barley, only because I typically have it on hand. In place of the canned chopped tomatoes AND passata, I use one box of crushed tomatoes — my favorite brand is in one of the photos in the slideshow above. I can find it at Whole Foods and ShopRite. The brand is Simpson Imports, which isn't so clear by its label/branding.

I also use water in place of stock. I don't marinate the feta, which allows me to omit the caraway seeds and fresh oregano. And I add finely chopped greens, kale or chard, which I think add a lot of flavor and substance to the dish.

Clearly, this is a dish that can be adapted to taste and ingredients at hand. —Alexandra Stafford

What You'll Need
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped, to yield a heaping cup
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup pearled farro
  • 3 to 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 strips of lemon peel
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 26-oz box or 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, see notes above
  • 3 cups water
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 ounces kale or chard, leaves removed from stems, finely chopped (about 4 packed cups)
  • 6 ounces feta, preferably in brine, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  1. Heat the 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan or pot over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions and garlic, reduce the heat to medium, season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5 minutes or until soft.
  2. Add the farro, the thyme, smoked paprika, and chile flakes, and cook for one minute or until the grains are coated in the spices. Add the bay leaf, lemon peel, crushed tomatoes, and 3 cups of water. Season with a pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so the mixture is gently simmering, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring every so often to ensure the farro isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. When ready, the farro should be tender and most of the liquid should be absorbed. Taste. If your crushed tomatoes contain salt, you might not have to add much here. I consistently add about a teaspoon of kosher salt, but I like salt, so adjust to taste. (Note: you may need to add water to thin it out at the end — each time I've made this, I've thinned it out with an additional cup of water, added incrementally.)
  3. When the farro is cooked, remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and lemon peel, and discard. Stir in half of the greens until they wilt. Add water if the mixture gets too thick. Add the remaining greens and stir until they wilt. Gently fold in the cubes of feta. Season with fresh cracked pepper. Taste and adjust as needed.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Beth Brann
    Beth Brann
  • Anne Marie Valencik Carver
    Anne Marie Valencik Carver
  • Ann Robinson
    Ann Robinson
  • Katie Cardell
    Katie Cardell
  • Maryann
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

82 Reviews

Beth B. February 4, 2023
Super easy and delicious 1-pan meal, which I prepared in an open non-stick skillet. I made 1/2 the recipe but used the 4 cloves of garlic, a 14.5oz can of crushed tomato, dried thyme and kale, and crumbled on French feta. The smoked paprika and lemon peels are a must. I used the TJs quick cook Farro, and it absorbed all the liquid in about 30 minutes. I just read in the reviews that someone added a can of chickpeas. I think that would go really well with this adding more protein, so I'll try that next time. Thank you!
Anne M. April 18, 2021
Lovely recipe. Worked perfectly for me, as written. Thank you!!
cyanpineapple July 23, 2019
Obligatory "Can you make this in an Instant Pot?" comment:
Yes! It's very hot here, so I didn't want something sitting on the stove for an hour. I followed the stovetop instructions, but using the sautee mode for the onions and garlic. I only added 1.5 cups of water (instead of 3, since pressure cooking doesn't allow as much water to cook off). Cooked at high pressure for 10 mins, then a 5-minute natural release. Then finished as directed in the recipe, using the sautee mode. Came out perfectly!
Ann R. April 5, 2019
Oh my goodness, I cannot believe how good this is! All of the elements combine for brightness and the faro has a lovely texture and flavor. This is a keeper for my plant based repertoire.
Bella March 22, 2018
I see 1/4 olive oil but only see the recipe calling for 4 T. Am I missing something?
Alexandra S. March 22, 2018
Hi Bella! That is confusing. 1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons. I'll edit the recipe to eliminate the confusion.
Bella March 22, 2018
Thank you! I thought that didn't seem possible but it sure is. It is so delicious! Just finished cooking.
Alexandra S. March 22, 2018
Yay! Wonderful to hear this.
Jennifer T. March 3, 2018
Has anyone used crumbled feta instead of cubed?
Katie C. December 30, 2017
Has anyone had any experience freezing this dish? I usually cook on weekends and then put dishes in the freezer to use for work lunches throughout the week. I know you can freeze cooked farro to use in later recipes, but I'm wondering if this would freeze well or if it would break down after defrosting. I'm very eager to try it either way!
mbzr January 3, 2018
I make this with (hulled/whole grain) barley rather than farrow. The barley version freezes well.
Lisa December 9, 2017
Didn’t work at all. It had way too much liquid and was more like tomato soup with Farro. Three thumbs down from our house.
Alexandra S. December 10, 2017
Sorry to hear this, Lisa. This isn't the typical reaction to this recipe. Did you make any other changes? What type of farro did you use? How long did you cook it for?
Maryann October 10, 2017
I made this tonight, I couldn't find pearled farro and doubled the recipe. It took awhile but it wasn't terrible. I kept it boiling to cook down faster. I think I would do half broth, half tomato for a bit more balance. I added a squeeze of lemon at the end and it finished it really nicely. I would consider working preserved lemon into it in the future and and serving it with some nice buttery olives.
Jenna M. June 14, 2017
Thank you for this recipe!! Just made this & WOW!!!! Simple to make and so flavorful. Excited to have this in my back pocket now! I used precooked/10 minute farrow from Trader Joe's. So I only added 1 cup of water. After simmering for 10 minutes, I added the kale, turned off the burner, and let it sit covered for another 30 minutes so flavors would infuse. The liquid ratio turned out well since the precooked barley didn't absorb a lot. Can't wait to eat a bowlful :)
samanthaalison May 30, 2017
I saw a lot of the comments indicating it was too much tomato, and about 15 minutes into cooking the farro, we agreed that it looked like way too much. (I had used a 28 oz can.) We added another half cup of farro and found that to be perfect. We'll definitely make this again - it was super easy and amazingly delicious.
Alexandra S. May 30, 2017
So happy to hear this, Samantha! Glad you were able to adjust the recipe in time.
EM May 24, 2017
This is such a winner! I love this recipe. I make it with Spinach because it is not easy to get nice Kale where i live in Asia. I also use homemade chicken broth in place of the water as I just think it gives it a bit more depth. Thank you Alexandra for another winning recipe! More vegetarian recipes please!
Alexandra S. May 25, 2017
So happy to hear this, Em!
Martin May 7, 2017
My wife is vegan so I took out some for her before putting in the feta. I also used spinach as I don't like kale. I found that the spinach that was put first was brown by the time the second batch was in. Is there a reason to put it in batches? Maybe to keep it from losing its heat? I'm definitely making it again, though. Something healthy, tastes good and is a breeze to make. Hard to beat.
Ttrockwood May 7, 2017
When using spinach wait until the entire dish is done cooking, remove from heat, then stir in the fresh spinach- it will wilt from the heat quickly yet won't get that brown or slimy overcooked texture.
Another option is to do fresh spinach in the bowl per serving and add the hot risotto on top which will wilt the spinach. Note this is only for fresh spinach
Martin May 8, 2017
Thank you!
macfadden April 16, 2017
Made this for dinner tonight and it was quite tasty, well-received by all.
V. April 13, 2017
Just made this last week. I used barley instead of farro and spinach instead of kale/chard. And I did leave out the feta. It was so so good. And there were leftovers for lunch.
Alexandra S. April 14, 2017
So happy to hear this!
Lisa April 11, 2017
Has anyone made this without the feta? I am vegan and would love to try this. I wonder how some of the vegan feta cheeses would work in this?
Simone April 11, 2017
I made it without feta and it was still very good!
Alexandra S. April 12, 2017
I saw someone on instagram made it vegan using cubes of fried tofu in place of the cheese. Also Gena Hamshaw has a great tofu cheese recipe that might work: https://food52.com/blog/13864-the-recipe-that-made-the-food52-team-love-cashew-cheese
passifloraedulis April 10, 2017
This was incredible. I am looking forward to leftovers. The only change I made was chop the chard stems really finely, which I also threw in the pot. I couldn't tell it was there, and it was a great way to use up the chard stems.
Alexandra S. April 11, 2017
yay, so happy!
Lisa L. April 8, 2017
I made the dish this morning while I was on a long phone call. I followed the recipe, as is. It's delicious. Can't wait to have it for dinner.
Alexandra S. April 9, 2017
So happy to hear this, Lisa!
Simone April 7, 2017
I made some adjustments based on the comments below and the dish came out great. The adjustments were: 14 ounce can of tomatoes (instead of 28 ounce), no lemon peel, and barley (couldn't find farro).
Alexandra S. April 9, 2017
mbzr April 6, 2017
Success. I used Bob's Red Mill pearled barley, and Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes. My husband says he doesn't like feta so I hid it by melting it in at the end. He thought it was yummy and I didn't bother to tell him he was enjoying feta (again). My wheels are already turning on tweaking this recipe, plus substituting barley (and farro) in other risotto recipes. Thanks to all commenters for your tweaks and ideas.
Alexandra S. April 6, 2017
So happy to hear this. Nice work on hiding the feta :) And yes so many ways to tweak here. Thanks for writing in!