Our garden is flourishing this year and the tomatoes in particular are doing really well. I have been picking fresh, ripe tomatoes for a couple of weeks already and I really do love the flavor of fresh picked tomatoes still warm from the garden. We are eating the tomatoes as quickly as we can although I am now beginning to even freeze some as they are ripening too quickly for me to use them up. This recipe was born out of my need to use up some of our tomato bounty, and the pairing of the slowly cooked farro in tomatoes with some freshly made basil pesto was a match made in heaven. I decided to use farro instead of rice to make this “risotto” dish as I love the texture and nutty flavor of farro and it is much healthier for you than basic rice. To make this dish, you simply cook the farro just as you would a basic risotto dish if you were using rice. The final farrotto dish should be creamy like risotto, but the farro should still have a little firmness to the bite.
I first discovered farro on a trip to Umbria many years ago and it was truly love at first bite. If you are unfamiliar with farro, it is an ancient grain that has made a comeback in recent years and is a typical ingredient used in Umbrian kitchens. Farro looks somewhat like fat brown rice but it has a chewy, slightly nutty flavor that is delicious. In Umbria farro is typically used in soups, salads, or as a side dish. Farro can be used in place of Arborio rice to create risotto, and it is ground into flour and used in everything from desserts to artisan bread.
As well as being very tasty, farro is very healthy for you too. A cup of farro has about 8 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber, or four times as much as white rice. It is a good source of B vitamins and minerals, magnesium in particular, and its complex carbs break down slowly which helps to keep your energy level regulated. You can buy farro in a few different forms including pearled, semi-pearled, or natural. Since the pearled varieties include removing the tough outer husk, the pearled varieties do cook quicker but are not as nutrient rich. For this dish, I prefer the semi-pearled variety as it will cook in about 30 minutes.
I decided to use three different tomato products in this farrotto, including tomato juice, crushed tomatoes, and oven roasted cherry tomatoes. To ensure the final result would not be too sweet or too rich in flavor, I whipped up a quick basil pesto that I garnished the dish with just before serving. The pesto contrasted beautifully with the tomato flavor and was the perfect accompaniment. I am trying to focus on a more plant based diet right now so I was happy with the farrotto just the way it turned out. My husband however wanted more protein, so we topped his dish with some shrimps we quickly sautéed just before serving. Upon tasting the farrotto, we both decided that this dish would also be delicious with the addition of some sausage meat, removed from the casings and fried along with the onion. Farrotto, like risotto, should be just a little soupy when finished as it will absorb the liquid quickly and firm up as soon as it has been served and begins to cool. I felt this dish really didn’t need grated cheese, but feel free to try some grated Pecorino Romano cheese if you decide not to use the pesto topping.
Deborah Mele 2014
Three Tomato Farrotto With Basil Pesto
- 1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes
- 5 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
- Salt & Pepper
- 4 Cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth
- 2 Cups Tomato Juice
- 1/2 Medium Onion, About 1/2 Cup, Diced
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled, & Minced
- 1 1/2 Cups Semi-pearled Farro
- 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
- 1 (14 Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Butter
- Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- Basil Pesto
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Toss the cherry tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on the prepared pan.
- Roast the tomatoes just until they soften and begin to collapse, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Place broth and tomato juice in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and keep warm.
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, then cook the onion until it is translucent and soft.
- Add the garlic and cook a minute or two until fragrant.
- Add the faro, and cook, stirring continually, for 3 to 4 minutes until it is well coated in the oil mixture.
- Add the wine and cook, stirring often, until the wine has been absorbed.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Begin to add a ladle of the broth/juice mixture, stirring it into the farro, adding more as each ladle full gets absorbed.
- Continue to cook the farro in this fashion for about 30 minutes or until the mixture is creamy, but the faro is still a little firm to the bite.
- Season with salt and pepper and stir in the butter.
- Gently stir in the roasted cherry tomatoes, then serve in individual bowls, with some dollops of the pesto, or grated cheese on top.