Farro Soup

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 11/2 hours or more, largely unattended

Farro is an ancient grain, a form of wheat that has enjoyed a popular revival in the last couple of decades thanks to our quest for “new” ingredients and the popularity of classic regional Italian cooking. It’s a grain that is most closely associated with Tuscany, and indeed this recipe is from Lucca, a spot that’s famous for its olive oil. It captures all the rustic, full-flavored country cooking of Tuscany in a soup bowl.

Be sure to have an ample amount of grated Parmesan (at least a cup) at the table to stir into the soup (skip it if you’re serving vegans). A bottle of good red wine isn’t a bad idea either.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup farro, spelt, peeled wheat, or barley

1 cup dried white beans, preferably soaked for several hours or overnight

2 cups chopped tomato (canned is fine; don’t bother to drain)

6 cups water or vegetable stock, or more as needed

1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, if available

Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

01 Put the oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, celery, carrots, a large pinch of salt, and some pepper. Cook until the vegetables are glossy and the onion softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir; add the farro, beans, tomato, and stock and stir.

02 Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture simmers steadily. Cook until the farro and beans are tender, at least an hour, adding stock or water as necessary if the mixture becomes too thick. (You may prepare the soup in advance up to this point; cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days, then reheat before proceeding. If the beans and farro soak up all the liquid in the soup, add water to thin it out, simmer for 5 minutes, and season to taste with salt before proceeding.)

03 Stir in the parsley and basil, then cook for another 5 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve with lots of Parmesan.

Variation

Farro-Mushroom Soup. This soup becomes significantly richer with the addition of reconstituted porcini or morel mushrooms: Soak a handful of dried mushrooms in a cup of hot water (piping-hot tap water is fine) for the time it takes to cook the carrots, onion, and celery, then add the mushrooms and their soaking liquid (strain it first if it seems sandy) with the farro, beans, and stock at the end of Step 1. Reduce the water or stock to 5 cups.