Early on in my mission to make more plant-based meals, I made farrotto – the dish where nutrient-rich farro is prepared like risotto – and I knew it was going to be a dinner rotation staple as soon as the early reviews came in. “Tastes like cacio e pepe,” said my 18-year-old cacio e pepe aficionado. To that I’d add, “But healthier.” We use this recipe as a template all year long, throwing in whatever vegetables are at their best. (The spring version, below, with mushrooms, asparagus, lemon zest, and parsley would be particularly delicious right now.) Like regular risotto, the dish takes a little stovetop babysitting, but it’s the kind of mindless work you can do while reading a book or sipping a glass of wine.
A Farrotto for All Seasons
Recipe from The Weekday Vegetarians
Add a 7-minute egg if you want a protein hit. Add cooked crumbled sausage or shrimp for someone at the table who might be missing meat.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1⁄2 small onion, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Dash of dried red pepper flakes 2 cups pearled farro
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock, store-bought or homemade, warmed
Seasonal vegetables and an herb (see add-ins below)
2⁄3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a deep medium-size skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion is softened, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Stir in the farro and wine and increase the heat to medium-high. Stir until most of the wine has been absorbed, then start adding vegetable stock in 1-cup drizzles, adding more as the liquid is absorbed. (You want the grains to always be just slightly submerged.) This is when you should prepare your seasonal vegetable add-in (see below). When the farro is cooked (porridgy but still a little toothy, like risotto, 30 to 35 minutes), turn off the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon butter, the Parmesan, and the desired vegetable combination. Serve the farrotto in bowls topped with the suggested fresh herb.
SPRING: 8 ounces sliced mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, or white button, sautéed in 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil with salt and pepper until crispy (about 10 minutes); about a dozen and a half trimmed, chopped asparagus (you can add them to the mushrooms toward the last few minutes of cooking); and a teaspoon of lemon zest; finish with chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
SUMMER: 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes and the uncooked kernels from 2 medium ears of corn; finish with chopped fresh basil
FALL: Roasted honeynut or butternut squash; finish with salted sage leaves fried in a tiny bit of olive oil
WINTER: 3 cups halved Brussels sprouts, tossed with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and black pepper, and roasted at 425 ° F for 12 minutes; 1⁄2 cup frozen peas; finish with fresh thyme or tarragon
PS A fruit crisp for all seasons and 10 quick spring dinners.
(Photo by Christine Han for The Weekday Vegetarians.)