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Farro Soup

Updated February 23, 2016
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This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Although a handful of American restaurants have discovered farro, it is not so easy to find this ancient grain outside of Lucca, where I was born, and the absolute best variety comes from Garfagnana, where my mom grew up. I think of this zuppa as the Tuscan version of chicken soup: It cures all ills. And I believe it when locals say one hundred kernels of farro give you all the energy you need for a day. (The Romans must have thought the same: They paid their soldiers in spelt, or what we call farro or emmer.) The key to cooking spelt is water. Don't stint. It absorbs lots of water as it softens, and you want those grains as plump as possible.

WINE SUGGESTION: Frescobaldi makes a big Merlot-based red called Giramonte, which some people might say is too strong for this dish, but I like it.

QUICK-COOK METHOD:

1. Pick over the beans to remove any stones or bad or broken beans. Rinse thoroughly.

2. Put the beans in a stockpot and cover with 4 quarts cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the beans soak in the hot water for 1 hour.

3. Drain the beans and return them to the stockpot. Cover with 4 quarts fresh cold water.

4. Wrap the herbs and garlic in a 6-inch square of cheesecloth and add it to the pot. Add the carrot, celery, and onion. Bring the water to a boil and cook at a low simmer until the beans are done. Depending on their freshness and the variety of bean, this can take from 45 minutes to 2 hours. Keep checking them for doneness. After 30 minutes of cooking, add the salt.

Serves8

CostModerate

Moderate

Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, high fiber, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentfood processor

Mealdinner

Moodblue

Taste and Texturecheesy, garlicky, herby, salty, winey

Type of Dishhot soup, soup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick-soaked dried cranberry beans (See Notes)
  • 2 small onions, 1 cut in half, 1 coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, 1 whole, 1 coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, 1 broken in half, 1 coarsely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (3 cups)
  • Salt
  • 1 1/3 cups farro (also called spelt, available in health food stores)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped leek, white part only
  • 4 ounces pancetta, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 cup finely diced, peeled, and seeded butternut squash
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for serving

Instructions

To start the soup: Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add the onion halves, the whole carrot, the whole celery stalk, the bay leaf, and potatoes. Add enough fresh water to cover the beans by at least 3 or 4 inches, bring to a simmer, and cook until the beans are soft. Depending on how old the beans are, this could take from 2 to 3 hours. Five minutes before removing from the heat, add salt. Rinse farro and cover, place in a large bowl and cover it with 3 cups cold water. Set aside.

With a slotted spoon, remove the beans and potatoes from the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaf, but reserve the liquid. Remove 1/4 of the beans and potatoes and set aside.

In a food processor puree the remaining bean/potato mixture with the reserved cooking liquid. Set aside.

In the food processor puree the garlic, the chopped onion, chopped carrot, and chopped celery, the leek, pancetta, sage, rosemary, and crushed red pepper to a coarse paste.

Coat the bottom of a large stockpot with the ¼ cup olive oil. Add the pureed vegetable mixture and butternut squash and sauté over medium heat until the mixture starts to color, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.

Add the tomato paste and wine and cook until the wine has reduced by half.

Add the bean/potato puree and 1 quart water, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Drain the farro and add it to the soup. Add the reserved beans and potatoes and continue to cook for 40 to 45 minutes, adding 1 quart more water. If the soup becomes dry toward the end of the cooking time, add a little more water. Adjust the seasonings.

To serve, drizzle the soup with olive oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan and black pepper.

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