Thursday, January 24, 2008

Farro Soup in the Style of Lucca (Minestra di Faro Lucchese)

When you read a lot of food blogs, like I do, many times you’ll come across an ingredient, something you hadn’t heard of , and the next thing you know everyone is cooking with it. It becomes the new best friend of food blogs. Farro is one of those new best friends.

Researching farro, also known as emmer, (the things you learn on the web), revealed a whole world of recipes that use it. Breads, pastry crusts, salads, risottos and soups. Enter the Italians . They’re the ones that have known about farro forever. As well they should, it’s the original grain. The daddy of all the grains we know now. Dates back thousands of years.

They also know soup. It’s a passion in their country. Must be because in the Italian language, there are three words that translate to the English word soup. Zuppa is a basic soup, minestrone, the kitchen sink of Italian soups using both fresh and leftover cooked vegetables. And then there is minestra. Fits somewhere in between. A filling, substantial meal that includes grains (farro) or pasta and is usually made with vegetables that are in season. Magnifico!!

Farro Soup in the Style of Lucca: Minestra di Faro Lucchese
Adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali

A couple of swirls extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, cut in half, then sliced

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 small leek, white and light green part only, thinly sliced
1 cup farro
1 (12-ounce) can borlotti beans, rinsed and drained (pinto beans can be substituted)
1 tablespoon sundried tomato paste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
A small piece of rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 2 inches wide)
1- 1/2 cups fresh or frozen green peas
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves and Italian parsley, chopped
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Your very best extra virgin olive oil for garnish

In a Dutch oven , heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, fennel, carrot and leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and slightly caramelized, about 15 -20 minutes. Add the farro, beans, and tomato paste. Stir to combine ingredients well. Salt and pepper, to taste. Add water until the mixture is completely covered. Add the rind of cheese Let the liquid come to a boil then lower the heat and let the soup simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Add the peas , stirring to combine, and continue to cook for another 30 minutes, adding more water when necessary.Remove the rind before serving.

Chop Italian parsley and fresh basil for garnish. Serve with more Parmesan Reggiano cheese and a swirl of your best olive oil.

Serves 4-6.


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