One-Skillet Farro With Fennel, Tomatoes & Parmesan

May 28, 2020
Photo by Anna Billingskog
Author Notes

The inspiration for this hearty, one-skillet farro comes by way of Deb Perelman’s One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes on Smitten Kitchen, whose recipe was inspired by Martha Stewart’s famous One-Pan Pasta. I love the concept so much (cook the farro and sauce together in a single pan) that I couldn’t help myself in creating my own, seasonal riff.

My version keeps the easygoing spirit of both recipes but turns to a skillet versus a saucepan, which provides the perfect opportunity for frying anchovies and toasting the farro in a slick of olive oil to build flavors from the ground-up. From there, I call in sliced fennel and lemon zest (a flavor duo that works so well with earthy farro), as well as cherry tomatoes, garlic, vegetable stock, and chile flakes, before simmering away on the stove. Be sure to reach for a fennel bulb with lots of frilly fronds: the fennel frond pesto is one of my favorite things about this dish. It not only adds beautiful color, it gives a pop of freshness, texture, and flavor to an already flavor-packed dish.

A few notes: Farro comes in three main types: whole (or unpearled), semi-pearled, and pearled. (Pearling refers to how much of the exterior bran is removed; thus, whole farro has the longest cooking time, followed by semi-pearled and pearled.) I developed the recipe below using semi-pearled farro. If using pearled, often labeled as “10-minute” farro, follow the same instructions and check for doneness at the 20-minute mark (and spoon off any excess liquid if you like). Whole farro will take upwards of 60 minutes, so either soak it overnight, or start with an additional 1/4 cup water and add more liquid, as needed, until it’s fully tender.

Using this basic formula, nearly everything about this recipe is adaptable: the grains (try pearled barley or wheat berries), the liquid (add a little heavy cream or coconut milk towards the end for a more indulgent version), and the flavors (slip in other vegetables, aromatics, herbs, and spices for nearly infinite variations). You may need to adjust the amount of liquid and cook time for different grains, but it’s easy to add more liquid if the pan looks dry, or spoon some off once the grains are done. —EmilyC

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 anchovy fillets, minced and smashed into a paste (or use 2 teaspoons anchovy paste)
  • 1 1/4 cups uncooked semi-pearled farro (see author note for using other types of farro)
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock or water)
  • Finely grated zest plus juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 large fennel bulb (about 1 lb), trimmed, halved, then sliced 1/4-inch thick, fronds reserved
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 8 to 10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 pinch red chile flakes (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (or almonds or pistachios)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more shaved for topping
In This Recipe
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add anchovy, smashing and stirring to dissolve into oil, then add farro. Fry the farro for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until evenly toasted, lowering the heat if needed. (Note: if using a 12-inch skillet, add 1/4 cup additional stock in Step 2.)
  2. Add the stock, lemon zest, fennel, garlic, cherry tomatoes, salt, and chile flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes (uncovered), or until the farro is tender, most of the stock is absorbed, and a bit of “sauce” remains in the skillet.
  3. While the farro is cooking, make the fennel frond pesto: Roughly chop all of the fennel fronds; you should have about 1/4 cup (if you’re short, either make up the difference with fresh parsley or basil, or reduce the amount of olive oil below). Pile the fronds on the cutting board, then add the pine nuts and parmesan on top. Chop them together until well integrated—then transfer to a small bowl and add 4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Adjust seasoning and acidity, to taste.
  4. When the farro is done, spoon most of the fennel frond pesto over the top (while still in the skillet), then top with shaved or grated Parmesan. Serve warm, with the rest of the pesto on the side.

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Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.