How to Use Farro
Farro is an ancient wheat that is packed with nutrients and flavor.
Have you tried Farro? This unique grain has a long history and an impressive nutrient profile. Farro is said to have sustained the Romans as they conquered the world 7,000 years ago. Legend has it that Julius Caesar himself brought it to Italy after invading Egypt in 30 B.C. Known as the Pharaoh’s wheat because it was the only wheat cultivated in pharaonic times, this nutritious, high-energy grain was a staple in Roman society.
Also known as emmer wheat, farro (triticum dicoccon) is the Italian name for this hulled ancient mother grain that gave rise to modern wheat. Often confused with spelt (triticum spelta), they are two distinct, though closely related grains. Armed with more than twice the protein and fiber of modern wheat, each grain of farro packs a nutritious punch. Not only is it rich in magnesium, niacin, zinc and iron, it also provides a complete protein source when combined with legumes. Farro has a low gluten content with more fragile gluten molecules than those of modern wheat, making it easier to digest, and sometimes tolerable for many gluten-intolerant individuals. An excellent source of whole grains and complex carbohydrates, farro can play a significant role in maintaining healthy body weight, and reducing diabetes, heart disease, and cardiovascular disease risk, as well as helping to prevent certain forms of cancer.
Farro is a delicious nutrient-dense grain. It’s rich in minerals, antioxidants, lignans, phytonutrients, and fiber. Its magnesium content is important in glucose and insulin secretion, which helps fight metabolic syndrome, a strong predictor of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. New studies have found that betaine, present in whole grains like farro, may work together with choline to prevent chronic- and stress-induced inflammation. Research shows also that farro contains a special type of carbohydrate called cyanogenic glucosides that stimulate the immune system, lower cholesterol and play a role in blood clotting.
Farro in the Kitchen
It’s so easy to use farro in the kitchen! Farro is sold whole, semi-pearled and pearled (which determines cooking time), and is also available as flour and pasta. The grain looks like plump barley and may be used in recipes calling for spelt, barley and quinoa, though cooking times will vary. Look for pearlized farro (farro perlato) and prepare as you would rice: use a 2:1 liquid to grain ratio, add farro to boiling water or broth, simmer covered for 25-35 minutes to desired tenderness and drain unabsorbed liquid. Enjoy farro’s distinctly nutty flavor and al dente bite in soups and stews, as a rice substitute and in salads. Join the resurgence of this mother grain that has caught the eye of both gourmets and the health-conscious.
Clearly, farro is a delicious and healthy grain option that is easy to prepare and extremely versatile. Farro can easily be swapped for other grains in recipes, try using it instead of quinoa in this Mediterranean Edamame Quinoa Bowl. Or try out my tasty warming recipe below. It’s the perfect dish for a chilly winter night, and the combo of hearty veggies and our favorite grain farro makes it a satisfying one dish meal.
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Written by Sharon Palmer MSFS, RDN with Ally Mirin on February 7, 2020