I found this soup recipe on the Washington Post site and the ideas of pureeing some of the chickpeas as a technique to increase the creaminess of the soup broth and of adding farro to give the soup substance intrigued me. In the end, this recipe produced a flavorful minestrone-ish soup.
Farro, if you are unfamiliar with it, is the Italian name for emmer, one of the oldest cultivated grains. Farro has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance in popularity since the 1990s when “foodies” rediscovered the distinctive grain as an alternative to pasta and rice. Thereafter, farro imports to the United States from Italy increased dramatically. Today, it is pretty easy to find farro at your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
So what is farro, exactly?
Food historian Harold McGee writes that “somewhat” less than a million years ago a chance mating of a wild wheat and a wild goatgrass produced emmer and durum wheat–the two most important wheats of the Mediterranean world. McGee’s description sounds kinda “Fifty Shades” of farro to me, but I digress.
Further, The University of Florence’s Department of Plant Genetics identifies farro as an ancient, unhybridized grain that was used as an important food source for thousands of years in North Africa and the Middle East. Farro grains, according to their research, have been recovered from ancient Egyptian tombs and the use of farro as a primary food (and even as currency) during the height of the Roman Empire is well- documented.
Fast forward to modern times. Modern Farro cultivation is concentrated in central and northern Italy where many credit the longevity of Italians who live in those regions with their consumption of the grain. then again, maybe this is just another indication of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
How to prepare farro?
Uncooked farro looks a bit like a kernel of brown rice. Cooked, it looks like a small piece of popcorn and, importantly, in the cooked state, farro retains its shape. It is rich in vitamins A,B,C and E and is high in fiber, so it is good for you. Incorporated into your favorite dishes, farro imparts a nutty flavor and a chewy texture to your salads and soups. Because farro is most successfully grown in Italy’s arid high altitudes without a lot of fuss, you can usually count upon it to be pesticide and fertilizer free.
Tuscans are renowned for combining farro and beans into a delicious winter soup, zuppa di farro. For that reason, I’m thinking that this soup, although it does not call for white beans, is a bit Italian. Farro flour is used to prepare ravioli and other pasta dishes. Farro also is used in risotto-like dishes. Apparently, farro has a place on your dessert table, too. I’ve found a maple syrup-flavored farro pudding recipe, budino con acero, that sounds amazing. I promise to give that pudding recipe a try and, if it is as good as it sounds, I will post the recipe here.
Blue Cayenne has visited the expanding world of farro before. You will find recipes for Farro and Bean Soup and a wonderful farro salad, Farro with Pistachios, Mixed Herbs, Golden Raisins and Dried Cherries. Just take a look using the search box on the right side of this page this page under the bold-face heading “Categories”.
The link to the original Washington Post recipe from which this recipe was adapted appears at the end of this post.
A simple and delicious vegetable soup with farro.
20 minPrep Time
45 minCook Time
1 hr, 5 Total Time
- 3 C. cooked (and drained) chickpeas (from two 15-ounce cans or home-cooked)
- 3 1/2 C. vegetable broth
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 1 medium carrot (diced)
- 1 rib celery (diced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 pinch rosemary (or a small sprig of fresh rosemary)
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 t. freshly-ground black pepper
- 1/2 C. pearled farro
- 2 C. lightly-packed baby spinach (coarsely chopped, stems removed)
- 1/3 C. freshly grated Asiago cheese (or more)
- 1/2 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- Puree 1 cup chickpeas and 1/2 cup broth in a blender until smooth. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté onion, carrot and celery for 6-8 minutes until vegetables are softened by not browned. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 additional minute. Add the remaining 2 cups of chickpeas, remaining 3 cups of broth, tomatoes (and their juices), tomato sauce, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 15 minutes.
- Add farro. Increase heat and bring mixture to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat and simmer soup (covered) until the farro is tender. This will take about 20 minutes.
- Discard the rosemary sprig if you used fresh rosemary. Add the chickpea puree and stir in the spinach. Cook for 1-2 minutes until spinach is wilted but still bright green.
- Serve with a sprinkling of grated Asiago cheese.
Here is the link to the original Washington Post recipe: