Warm Farro with Wilted Baby Spinach and Crispy Pancetta
Meet my new discovery, Farro. Well, it’s not really a “new” discovery, I’ve just finally figured out how to cook with it. Farro is one of those new again ancient grains to gain popularity in the mainstream food arena. A grain that feels and cooks much like brown rice or barley, but more complex and stubborn. As you can tell I’ve wrestled with perfecting the cooking of this little grain.
Farro is the Italian name for Emmer wheat. The first bite will have you hooked; rich and nutty flavor with just a bit of crunch keeps your spoon or fork digging in for more. A fabulous alternative to brown rice or couscous, and deliciously pairs with veggies, caramalized onions, wilted spinach, chard and anything else you can think of.
Ok, so now you know what farro is, let me tell you how I cook it. I’ve experimented with several methods and the method I’ve had the most luck with is simply boiling in water for a recommended amount of time, taking it off the heat, and letting it sit for a while to soften. When the grains have popped open and become soft, that’s when I think farro tastes and feels the best.
I’d really like to tell you it was my culinary brilliance that figured out my favorite method for preparing farro, but honestly, it was because I had to quickly take the pot of farro off the heat so I could leave my house. I’d lost track of time experimenting with recipes and forgot I had to pick up my daughter from school! The farro was just going to have to wait and I’d deal with the disaster when I got home. To my surprise it wasn’t a disaster at all, it was a delicious discovery. I love when that happens!
If you can’t find farro where you live, here is a link to our local Emmer Farro grower, Bluebird Grain Farms. They will ship right to your door! http://www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com/index.html
2 cups Emmer Farro (whole grain, if using cracked farro cut the cook time in half, or follow cooking instructions on the package)
4 1/2 cups water or veggie or chicken broth
8 oz - organic baby spinach ( or more, depending on how much you like spinach!)
8 – 10 slices pancetta (basically it’s Italian bacon)
1 small onion, halved and thin sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh Italian parsley (for garnish, optional)
In a large pot, heat the 4 1/2 cups water. Season the water with a little salt, and then add the farro. Let the farro simmer for about 30 minutes. Check the farro, if it is soft and plump and you like the texture then it’s ready. However, if it’s still a bit crunchy and the kernels haven’t burst, take it off the heat and let it sit for another 30 minutes in the hot water.
While the farro is cooking, heat a skillet on medium and add a pat of butter and saute the onions. Once the onions are soft and golden, add the garlic and saute for a minute longer.
Transfer the onions and garlic to a bowl and set aside. In the same skillet over medium heat, add the pancetta. Let the pancetta cook and crisp, like bacon and then transfer to a dish and set aside.
Last, again in the same skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil if needed and heat on medium heat. In batches, add the baby spinach to the pan and let the spinach wilt. You just want the spinach to wilt slightly, not cook down until soggy. Transfer the spinach to the dish with the onions and garlic.
When the farro is done, drain if needed and place in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the farro with the spinach, onions and garlic. Once it’s blended to your satisfaction, crumble the pancetta over the top and serve. Dust with fresh chopped Italian parsley if desired.
I surfed the net for additional farro recipes, and I love the farro post on the blog Orangette, a fellow Seattlite. Sounds yummy! PS: I love Molly’s book too! Definitely worth purchasing, a great read!