Easy Spring Vegetable Farro Risotto
A minor miracle happened in our house last night. No, it wasn’t the second coming, or the first, depending on where you stand on these matters. Instead, my entire family ate whole wheat fettuccini without uttering a word about its whole “wheatiness.”
This has never happened before, despite the dozens of dinners I have made featuring whole grain pasta in every iteration. They know better than to complain, but at the very least I usually get a suspicious, “is this whole wheat?” out of at least one of them.
Perhaps the months (years?) of whole grain indoctrination is finally paying off. Or perhaps robust tomato sauce with bits of braised pork disguised said whole wheat pasta.
Opting for whole grains instead of processed ones, whether in bread, or oatmeal or rice, is smart from a health standpoint because they have more fiber, which means they digest more slowly so they sustain you longer. They pack in more vitamins and minerals and can help keep cholesterol in check, among other benefits
I got the idea for this dish from my friend Suzanne, who raved about a baked risotto she cooked recently. While the original was made with arborio rice, the fat little Italian variety, I thought I’d use farro instead, a grain that also hails from Italy, but packs in more nutrition.
The asparagus and peas, which are excellent this time of year, go in at the very end and cook until just until tender. Yes, shelling peas takes time, but it’s the perfect sort of chore to pass onto your staff (that’s code for children). Mine don’t seem to mind it. Just be sure the peas make it into the measuring cup, not their wee mouths. Fresh chopped mint and Parmesan finish the dish. If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, the farro is great in a lunch box the next day.
Spring Vegetable Farro Risotto
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 strips uncooked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces (leave out for a vegetarian version)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup semipearled farro (see notes)
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1 cup English peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 bunch asparagus (3/4 of a pound), tough stems snapped off, cut into 1-inch long pieces
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the oil in a large pot with an oven-proof lid over medium-high. Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add the bacon. Sauté until the onion is translucent and the bacon is cooked (though it won’t be crispy).
Add the farro and lemon juice and turn the heat to high. Cook until the farro absorbs the juice. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, set the lid on the pot and put it into the oven.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the farro is just tender, with no crunch. Remove from the oven and add the peas and asparagus. If the farro looks dry, add 1/4 cup of water or broth. Give it all a good stir and put it back into the oven for another 7 to 8 minutes until the vegetables are just tender (keeping in mind they will continue to cook a little once out of the oven).
Remove from the oven, add mint, salt, and Parmesan. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper along with more salt if needed. Serve immediately.
If using pearled farro (as opposed to semipearled), scale back the broth to 2 1/2 cups and add more as needed. Also, keep any eye on the clock, since pearled farro cooks more quickly than semipearled. If English peas are not in season, use frozen, defrosted peas.