Farro has been a staple of Italian cuisine for centuries, and its mild nutty flavor, distinctive texture, and endless versatility have boosted its popularity throughout Europe and North America as well.
Rich in fiber, magnesium, and B vitamins, farro is a healthy alternative to pasta and rice that can be combined with countless other ingredients to make everything from main dishes to desserts.
What is farro?
Often referred to as an ancient grain, the word farro (pronounced FAHR-oh) is actually a common term used for three ancient varieties of wheat. These varieties were originally cultivated in an area of the Middle East known as the Fertile Crescent which included the ancient region of Mesopotamia.
Much of the farro in today’s markets, however, is grown in central and northern Italy, and because it thrives in a high-altitude, barren environment, it’s usually free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Types of Farro
The way farro is processed after harvesting will make a difference in the cooking time and the way it’s prepared.
Farro can be either pearled (perlato), semi-pearled (semi-perlato), or whole-grain. Here is a brief explanation of the differences.
- Pearled farro: Pearling is a common method of removing the farro’s inedible hull as well as the bran. This is the type of farro most frequently found in U.S. markets. It’s very convenient to use as all it needs is a quick rinse before cooking and it’s done in 30 minutes or less.
- Semi-pearled farro: Semi-pearled farro has had the hull and some of the bran removed in processing, but it still retains some fiber. Since labeling on farro can sometimes be inconsistent, it’s easiest to determine if farro is semi-pearled by checking the cooking instructions on the package. If it needs a short soak prior to cooking or cooks for longer than 30 minutes, it’s semi-pearled.
- Whole-grain farro: Whole-grain farro is hulled using a less abrasive process which leaves both the bran and germ intact. Whole-grain farro generally requires overnight soaking and about an hour of cooking time.
We recommend using a pearled variety because it’s easy to prepare and quick cooking.
How to Store Farro
Once opened, store semi-pearled and pearled farro in the freezer for up to six months. Whole-grain farro is a little more durable and can be kept tightly sealed in the pantry for a year or more.
How to Cook Farro
- 1 cup pearled farro
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- Measure the farro into a colander and rinse in cool water.
- Transfer to a medium saucepan, add the broth plus enough water to cover the top of the farro by about one inch.
- Bring the mixture to a boil for one minute.
- Stir, then reduce the heat to a moderate simmer.
- Cook, stirring occasionally until the farro is al dente, 20 to 30 minutes total.
- Start testing for doneness after about 15 minutes and once the farro is cooked to your liking, drain any liquid that hasn’t been absorbed and fluff with a fork.
- If serving hot, toss with olive oil or add some butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- If making a farro salad, rinse with cool water and set aside until ready to use.