Traditionally, deliciously creamy risotto is made with Carnaroli or even Arborio rice. The process involves standing over a simmering pot, constantly stirring to release the rice starches that give the dish its notable texture. While there’s nothing more comforting than a bowl of creamy risotto, sometimes changing the type of grain in the dish can add an interesting twist. Our family really adores risotto made using barley so I thought I would experiment further and try another grain to make a quick and healthy family week night dinner.
Farro is a type of wheat that was a mainstay of the daily diet in ancient Rome. Today it is still quite popular in Italy and with foodies and chefs worldwide because it adds a nutty flavour and chewy texture to soups, stews, casseroles and salads. Farro is a good source of protein and iron as well as being high in fibre; especially if it is whole grained, meaning that the outer layer has not been removed. Natural unprocessed farro takes quite a long time to cook but is superior in flavour so make sure you buy ‘pearled’ farro if you are pressed for time. Or, if you still want to use unprocessed farro, you can try a little experiment: whirl the grains in a food processor to break up the outer hull and see if that reduces the cooking time.
After making my pumpkin pie and cheesecake for Thanksgiving I still another whole sugar pumpkin left over. I decided to flavour this Farrotto with the remainder of the sugar pumpkin mixed with some pesto I had kicking around in the fridge. For an even more satisfying dish (visually, health-wise, and taste-wise) I topped it with some caramelized red onions. I wish everyone would eat more onions!
Sugar Pumpkin Farrotto
- 1/4 sugar pumpkin; peeled and roughly cut into 2 inch cubes (approximately 5 cups)
- 1 cup farro
- 5-6 cups vegetable stock (as needed)
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 2 tbsp basil pesto
- 1 red onion; sliced
- olive oil
- grana padano
- salt and pepper
- Italian parsley to finish
- Steam pumpkin until soft. Purée in a blender or food processor with a bit of olive oil and the pesto until mixture becomes smooth.
- Place vegetable stock in a pot. Bring to a simmer, then keep warm.
- Warm 1 tbsp olive oil to a pot then add the farro. Stir to coat the grains and add in white wine.
- Let the wine cook down a bit, then add warm stock to the pot to just cover the farro. Stir and cook until stock is absorbed by the farro then add another 1/2 cup of stock. Repeat as need for 20-30 minutes. Check consistency (and add more liquid as needed) and cook for longer if you wish.
- Place slivered red onions in a pan and sauté until caramelized. Set aside.
- Add pumpkin purée mixture to cooked farro, add in some shaved grana padano, top with caramelized onions and Italian parsley. Season with salt and pepper.