Joyce Goldstein cooked with farro long before ancient grains became a thing. Hailing from the early days of Chez Panisse, she went on to open her San Francisco restaurant, Square One (1984), where she married Mediterranean techniques with the agricultural bounty of California. I had the good fortune to attend a few of her cooking classes, and this is my favorite dish.
Farro is a blanket term that refers to ancient varieties of wheat berries (emmer, einkorn, and spelt) that have been pearled (or semi-pearled, which just means that some or all of the bran has been removed from the wheat berry, which cuts down on cooking time) and are intended to be cooked and served as whole grains. Farro has a chewy texture, delicious nutty flavor, and is high in fiber and protein.
I like to use the farro from Montana company, Timeless Natural Foods. I’ve also used sprouted spelt from Conservation Grains. Once I only had 1 cup of farro, so I added ½ cup sprouted spelt berries I had from Judy and that didn’t change the cooking time. When I made the recipe using 1 ½ cups of Judy’s sprouted spelt, the cooking time went from 15 to more like 25 minutes which makes sense, because I think her sprouted spelt berries are not pearled, only sprouted. (It makes no difference, just cook the grains in water until they are al dente then drain them, that’s it for the first step.)
I hope you enjoy making this!
Farro with Chestnuts and Butternut Squash
- 1 small (1-2 lb) or 1/2 large (3 lb) butternut squash, seeded, peeled and diced into 1-inch chunks or use 1 lb. Root Cellar Foods prepared butternut squash, "large dice"
- 3 cups water
- 1 ½ cups uncooked farro
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced small
- 1 tbsp fresh sage leaves or 1 heaping teaspoon dried, crumbled
- 1 cup roasted or steamed chestnuts or use fresh chestnuts, roasted and peeled
- 2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable) Swanson's low sodium is ideal
- 2-4 tbsp unsalted butter
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Partially cook the squash by roasting in the oven on a sheet pan. Toss squash pieces in 1 tablespoon olive oil and roast about 15 minutes.
Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan with lid. Rinse the farro with water, drain and add to the pot with the salt. Cover the pot and bring back to boil then remove lid, lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the farro is just tender, "al dente", about 15 minutes. Drain off water and set aside. (Will result in about 3 cups cooked farro.)
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan or dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the onions and sage and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.
Add the cooked farro and broth to the onions, and bring to a boil. Add the chestnuts and partially cooked squash, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan leaving a small air gap, and cook at a slow simmer until most of the broth as been absorbed. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper.