Also called emmer wheat, farro was one of the earliest cultivated grains and was grown widely in northern Africa and Europe.
But farro - the Italian name for this relative of modern wheat - can be fussy to grow, and it lost favor. Fast forward a few thousand years and it's trying for a comeback.
Why should you care? Farro has a robustly nutty flavor, a satisfyingly chewy texture, and it works well with numerous ingredients and cuisines.
Best yet, if you know how to boil pasta, you know how to cook farro. Boil 1 cup of farro in 3 to 4 cups of water (salted or not) for 15 minutes, then drain. Done.
In Italy, where most farro is grown, the grain often is added to soups. It also can be substituted for rice in risotto. Like arborio and other risotto rice varieties, farro is high in starch (needed to produce creamy risotto). Unlike rice, farro is forgiving. Overcooked rice results in mushy risotto. Farro holds its texture even when overcooked.
Most farro - which is high in protein and low in gluten - sold in the United States is pearled, which means it has been hulled. This helps it cook faster. Avoid farro that is not pearled, as this must be first soaked, then cooked longer.
Like other varieties of wheat, farro can be ground into flour and used in baking and to make pasta. Raise your hand if you are never going to do that!
Instead, try it in this recipe for warm farro salad with grilled Italian sausage.
Warm Farro Salad With Grilled Italian Sausage
Makes 4 servings
1 cup pearled farro
4 sweet Italian sausages
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Ground black pepper
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 plum tomatoes, diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 scallions, diced (whites and greens)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 to 2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
1. Bring 1 quart salted water to a boil. Add the farro and cook for 15 minutes, or until the grains are plumped Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan to medium-high. Add the sausages; cook until browned about 8 minutes. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and pepper to taste. Mix in the feta cheese.
4. Add the cooked farro to the bowl and mix well. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool.
5. Mix in the tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, oregano. Cut the sausages into 1-inch rounds, then add to the salad. Sprinkle with the almonds.
Per serving : 560 calories; 280 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 31 g fat (10 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 60 mg cholesterol; 46 g carbohydrate; 28 g protein; 7 g fiber; 910 mg sodium.