Farro – An Ancient Grain Making a Come-back

I was excited to find farro in one of my favorite Italian markets recently. Never heard of farro? Don’t feel badly, you’re not the only one. It isn’t new; in fact, it’s as old as the hills. One source states that farro was extremely popular in the Middle East during biblical times.

Farro became a less popular choice for farmers because it’s a low-yielding grain.

Despite this, it’s still grown in the wild, as well as in a cultivated manner. Today, farro is  popular in Italy, Asia, and in some areas of Europe and the Middle East.


According to Wikipedia, farro is “a food product consisting of the grains of certain wheat species in whole form. The exact definition is debated. It is sold dried and is prepared by cooking in water until soft, but still crunchy (many recommend first soaking overnight). It may be eaten plain, though it is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups. It is sometimes ground into flour and used to make pasta or bread.”

There are three grades of farro, long, medium and cracked, with a grain that resembles barley. Nutritionally, farro is a great source of complex carbohydrates, with twice the fiber and protein found in wheat that’s harvested today.

Farro isn’t sold everywhere, but you should be able to find it in well-stocked Italian markets or specialty stores. To make things a bit confusing, farro goes by different names according to geographic location. In Italy, farro is also known as emmer, spelt, and einkorn. In Germany and Switzerland spelt is more commonly grown, but since it’s used in much the same way, it is considered farro.

If you can’t find farro in your area, you’ll be happy to know that barley, quinoa, spelt, and wheat berries can be used in its place.

Here is a tasty, satisfying soup starring farro and assorted vegetables.

Farro and Vegetable Soup

Farro and Vegetable Soup
Yield: about 6 servings

Ingredients used

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp. dried crushed rosemary
1 bay leaf
½ to 1 cup tomato puree
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen whole leaf or chopped spinach, defrosted

(NOTE: 1 small bunch of well-washed, chopped kale or Swiss chard can be used in place of spinach)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. Aleppo red pepper, or to taste
1 cup farro, rinsed and drained
1 can small white beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
¼ cup flat leaf parsley and/or basil, chopped – for garnish

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, rosemary and bay leaf. Sautė until vegetables begin to soften, about 7 minutes.

2. Add tomato puree, broth, water, spinach, salt and pepper; bring to a boil.

3. Stir in farro, and the white beans, if using. Bring to a second boil, partially cover pot; reduce heat to medium-low.

4. Simmer for about 40 minutes until farro is tender but not mushy. Add more water, if necessary. Discard bay leaf. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

5. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with parsley and/or basil.

Robyn’s Note: At the last minute, I decided not to use the beans.

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  1. Anonymous November 13, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Sounds delicious … and thanks for reminding me I have Swiss chard in the fridge that needs to be used up. LOL We tried Farro for the first time last year. We liked it, but I pretty much stick with the barley and other grans because the Farro is so much more expensive (at least in my area). If memory serves, the Farro cooked faster, so that would be another plus. 🙂

  2. Robyn November 14, 2011 at 2:50 am

    I understand what you mean Chris. The barley is more accessible and less expensive. I guess that's why we don't see farro on more store shelves. But, it is a tasty grain!

  3. Vagabonde November 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I have never heard of farro but now I’ll look for it and give it a try. Thanks.


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