Farro e Fagioli

Dec.20.11 § 3 Comments

Happy Holidays!

For the second Christmas in a row, I’m trying to share my cooking with family members who I can’t be with. This is what I sent. It’s a jar of dried beans and farro, an Italian whole wheat berry. There’s a strip of kombu (in case you’re wondering What is this leathery black thing?) to help soften the beans while cooking, and a seasoning packet. All you need is one 28 oz can of diced tomatoes and these directions. But first, I want to tell you a little about this soup.

When I first started this blog in 2009, I posted Soup No. 1. Soup No. 1 is Pasta e Fagioli, or as us true Italians pronounce it, Pasta Vazool. It has and always will be my favorite soup, made for me by my Uncle Bub anytime he visits. But in recent years, I’ve been the one making it when he’s visiting (I’m a show-off). And that’s not the only time. I’ve made this soup for myself and my friends at least once a month since I was in college. It’s simply the best. But this summer I discovered farro. It’s a whole grain, full of all the fiber pasta is without. But it still has that chewy, almost gummy bite that pasta has. I fell in love. I replaced the pasta with it in this soup and this is how I’ve been making it ever since. And apparently I’m not the only one. I love it when I realize I’m making something Bittman-approved.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

This recipe takes some forethought. You need to soak the beans and grains overnight. But once it’s on the stove, there’s only about 15 minutes of active cooking time. Then it simmers away for a good hour while you do something fun, like knit or curl up by the fire. It’s perfect for wintertime. If you have one of these jars, it contains the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried farro
  • 1 cup dried white beans
  • 1 3-inch strip dried kombu seaweed
  • 1 T dried onion
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 t dried parsley
  • 1/4 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes

You will need

  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 5 cups water
  • oil for cooking, if desired (see instructions for notes)
Note there is no salt in these ingredients. Add salt to taste or health preference. Ready to get started? Dump the contents of the jar into a large bowl. Remove the seasoning packet and the kombu. Fill the bowl with cool water, enough to cover the farro and beans by several inches. Cover the bowl and refrigerate. Soak for at least 8 hours. I find it easiest to put in the fridge the night before if I’m making it for lunch, or first thing in the morning if I’m making it for dinner. When you’re ready to cook, just drain, rinse and set aside.

Cooking directions

Heat a large, heavy bottom soup pot, like a 5-quart Dutch oven, on medium. Open the seasoning packet over the pot and dump in. Cook the seasonings in about 2 T of olive oil. If you prefer cooking with no added fat, use a couple of tablespoons of vegetable broth, juice from the can of diced tomatoes, wine, or water. Cook until the seasoning is very fragrant, then add the can of tomatoes. Optionally, you may deglaze the bottom of the pot with about 2 T of red wine first. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer and stir in the farro and white beans. Add 5 cups of water and the kombu. Bring to a boil. Once the soup boils, bring it back down to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

The cooking time will likely depend on the hardness of your water. The kombu should aid the softening of the beans. Be sure to check the pot frequently. More water may be needed to keep the beans and farro covered. If the farro begins to look very plump, taste the beans to see if they have softened. Once both the farro and beans are soft, the soup is done. Remove from the heat. The soup will thicken as it cools. Serve right away with more red pepper flakes. Leftovers are just as good, if not better!

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