Farrotto with Asparagus and Peas

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Are you wondering what “farrotto” is?  I’m not sure if this is a correct culinary term, but this is what I call risotto made with farro instead of rice.  I certainly don’t want to take credit for this term, as I’m sure I saw it on a menu somewhere.  I’m just not that clever!  But whatever you want to call this, I’m sure you’ll love it’s crunch, and slightly nutty taste.  It’s much more flavorful than rice, and  much easier to cook than risotto.  You don’t have to stand over the pot, stirring and adding ladles full of broth. It’s also healthier for you than rice as it is a grain, an ancient grain at that.  Italians claim that it’s the original grain from which all others derive.  Of course they do!  When you purchase farro (which is easy to do nowadays), make sure the package says “Triticum dicoccum,” which is farro’s Latin name.  Otherwise it might be a similar grain, such as spelt or barley, and you will find it cooks differently and will be somewhat mushy….not firm to the bite like farro.  They will work, but be careful not to make it mushy.

I do still love risotto, made with arborio or carnaroli rice, but I find myself using farro more and more.  I have a favorite risotto cookbook by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman.  My sister gave me this cookbook many years (decades) ago, and I would bet I’ve made almost every recipe in it.  One of my favorites is with asparagus, especially in the spring when they’re in season.  I sometimes change it a bit by adding peas and using fennel in the soffritto.  All you have to do is use farro instead of the rice, and wallah, you have farrotto.  I think it’s a nice change.  I hope you do too.  I’d love to know what you think.

RECIPE:  serves 4

BRODO

5 cups vegetable broth, approximately, you might need more

1/2 cup dry white wine

SOFFRITTO  

2 TBSP unsalted butter

1 TBSP olive oil

1/3 cup finely minced onion

1/2 cup chopped fennel (optional, but not really, you’ll love it!)

RISO

1 1/2 cups farro

CONDIMENTI

1 pound  (can be a bit more) fresh asparagus, washed, cut into 1-inch pieces, tough bottom parts discarded and tips reserved separately.

1 cup frozen peas ( or fresh)

1 TBSP unsalted butter

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. BRODO:  Bring the broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan on top of the stove.

2. SOFFRITTO:  Heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4 quart pot over moderate heat.  Add the onion (and fennel) and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until it begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.

3. RISO:  Add the farro to the soffritto; using a wooden spoon; stir for 1 minute, making sure all the grains are well coated.  Add the wine and stir until completely absorbed.

4.  CONDIMENTI:  Add the asparagus ( and peas if using fresh), reserving the asparagus tips, and add two ladles of the simmering broth.  Stir well for several minutes.  Now add the rest of the broth, reserving 1/2 cup for later.  Cover and let it cook until liquid is just about absorbed.  You do have to keep checking, but this should take about 15 minutes.**  Now add the asparagus tips and frozen peas, if using frozen, and the remainder of the broth.  Cover for a few minutes, then stir, uncovered, until liquid is absorbed.  Turn off the heat and add the butter and parmesan.  Stir well.

**NOTE:  You have to be the judge of the cooking time.  By this I mean, that if all the liquid is absorbed, and it is still too crunchy for you, just add more liquid and keep cooking it until desired texture.

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