Our writers’ group performed like gladiators last night after enjoying farro, the ancestor of all grains, in a tasty Tuscan soup. Farro kept the Roman legions going, and for thousands of years before that, it nourished the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean. Added to pureéd borlotti beans and vegetables and served with a little sprinkle of Parmesan Reggiano, a drizzle of truffle oil, and maybe some homemade croutons, it makes a fantastic early spring supper. I adapted this recipe from one I found on epicurious.com.
BORLOTTI BEAN and FARRO SOUP
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
10 cups of vegetable or chicken broth,
heated to simmering
4 plum tomatoes (about 1 lb.)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
12 large sage leaves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup pearled farro
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Additional chopped parsley for garnish
1. Remove any foreign matter from beans and soak overnight, about 12 hours. (Or quick-soak beans.) Rinse well and drain.
2. Bring a pan of water to a boil. Core tomatoes. Slice small crosses into each end. Dip in boiling water until skin begins to loosen, about 90 seconds. Remove from pan and peel. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise and squeeze seeds out. Chop tomatoes and reserve.
3. Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Sauté onion, carrots, celery, and garlic until onion is soft, 10-15 minutes. Stir in broth, beans, tomatoes, parsley, and sage. Place bay leaves and thyme in spice bag and add to pot. Add 1 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 2-3 hours, until beans are tender.
4. Discard bouquet garni. Carefully blend soup in batches until smooth. Return to pot (I find it easier to transfer soup to a new pot). Return soup to a boil and add farro. Simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently, until farro is tender (it will be slightly chewy.)
5. Serve soup with freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese (veggie cheese for vegans) and/or truffle oil, croutons, and crusty bread.