So, like Goldilocks, cooking farro takes trying it to get it right
This farro is too hard.
This farro is too soft.
Unlike Goldilocks, I find it darn near impossible to get this ancient whole grain wheat just right. Do I soak it overnight? How about dry toasting it before I cook it? Then there's the question of do I simmer it covered or uncovered?
I could never get it right. That is until I started treating it like dried pasta. It was an aha moment for me when I realized I could control the texture by simply tasting the farro as I cooked it, just like I do when cooking pasta.
So simple. So brilliant.
The reason farro can be so tricky is there are so many variations of this wheat species from whole-grain farro (which takes the longest time to cook but has the most nutritional value) to semi-pearled (medium time and contains some fiber) and pearled (easiest to cook with little to no bran).
In other words, every farro is different, so tasting as you go is the only way to make sure you are getting it right.
This recipe for Farro and White Bean Minestrone calls for pearled farro, which means it is the easiest to cook, but you still need to keep an eye on it. The recipe has the farro actually cooking a little less than 30 minutes, but use your taste buds -- not your eyes or the clock -- to make sure it's the right texture.
It should be chewy yet tender. Think of it as a lighter, springier brown rice.
The addition of a Parmigiano cheese rind adds a nice creaminess to the soup, while a splash of lemon juice gives it the perfect brightness.
And that, with perfectly cooked farro, ought to make it just right.
• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's vice president of sales and marketing and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups.
Farro and White Bean Minestrone
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
½ large yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 cup uncooked pearled farro, rinsed and drained well
4 cups lower-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 (4-inch) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
1 bay leaf
1 (15-ounces) can small white beans, such as cannellini, drained and rinsed
1 (14-ounces) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring often, until onions begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in farro, combining it with vegetables and coating it in oil. Add broth, water, cheese rind, bay leaf, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high; reduce to medium-low, and simmer 12 minutes. Stir in beans and tomatoes; continue to simmer an additional 15 minutes -- or until the right texture. Remove and discard cheese rind and bay leaf. Remove from heat; stir in basil and lemon juice. Ladle soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and drizzle with olive oil.
Adapted from a recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis