One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes
Farro, a variety of wheat grain that has a meaty chew I find appealing in salads, soups, faux-risottos and more, isn’t bad the way it is usually cooked — in water, maybe with a pinch of salt — but it’s hard to argue it wouldn’t benefit from a more complex flavor base. To wit, you rarely see farro dishes or salads that don’t include at least one sweet thing (dried fruit or roasted-until-sweet vegetables), one bright thing (vinegar, lemon juice or a bit of pickled onion), one salty thing (crumbled feta, ricotta salata or anchovies), one crunchy thing (usually toasted nuts) and a good helping of a fat, usually olive oil, and if you’re lucky, all of the above.
Farro comes whole/unpearled, semi-pearled (semi-perlato) and pearled (perlato); pearling describes how much of the exterior bran is removed, but packages are not always labeled. If your package says it will cook in less than 15 minutes, it’s probably pearled; if it takes around 30 minutes, it’s probably semi-pearled. And if it takes 60 to 80 minutes, it is whole or unpearled. (To make it even more confusing, I’ve been using the Rustichella d’Abruzzo brand, which labels it as “whole farro” but it is indeed semi-pearled, which is why cooking times are the best way to decipher which kind you have.) This recipe will work for all three versions but I’ve defaulted to semi-pearled below, which I find most frequently in stores. In all cases, if your package gives you a different cooking time than the 30 minutes suggested below, default to it instead.
Serves: 4 as a side, 2 as a hearty main
2 cups water
1 cup (updated) semi-pearled farro (see Note above for farro types)
1/2 large onion
2 cloves garlic
9 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
Up to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Few basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
Grated parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak (I find just 5 to 10 minutes sufficient) while you prepare the other ingredients. Adding each ingredient to the pot as you finish preparing it, cut onion in half again, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons. Thinly slice garlic cloves as well. Halve or quarter tomatoes. Add salt, pepper flakes (to taste) and 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan, and set a timer for 30 minutes. Bring uncovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but with a meaty chew), seasoned and the cooking water should be almost completely absorbed. If needed, though I’ve never found it necessary, cook it for 5 additional minutes, until farro is more tender.
Transfer to a wide serving bowl. If there’s enough leftover cooking liquid to be bothersome, simply use a slotted spoon to leave the amount you wish to behind. Drizzle farro lightly with additional olive oil, scatter with basil and parmesan. Eat immediately. Repeat tomorrow.