Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Zuppa di farro (a Tuscan soup with spelt grain)

There are many versions of this lovely soup, which is perfect for a cold miserable grey day like this. We tried it first when we visited Tuscany years ago.

You will need
about 150g of whole spelt grain/farro
100 g of pancetta, chopped or cubed
2 shallots
1 garlic clove
herbs: fresh basil, parsley and thyme
2 cans of plum tomatoes
1 big tomato, skinned and chopped
olive oil
chicken or vegetable stock, about a litre
1 porcini stock cube (I Dadi/Star)
pecorino cheese, grated, to serve

Typically you would need to soak farro really well and repeatedely. I use an Italian farro from Pedon which does not need soaking. It is available from the independent health food shops (sadly, Holland & Barrett did not oblige, they only have the spelt flour).
Fry the cubed/chopped pancetta in a frying pan with a tablespoon of the olive oil, once the fatty bits go transparent and start melting, add the chopped onion and garlic. The smell is just fantabulous, totally mouthwatering. Add the chopped thyme if using (you can use dry thyme as well).

Once the onion becomes transparent and softened, add two cans of tomatoes and the skinned and chopped tomato (I like the combination of the two, as it gives slightly different textures), add salt and black pepper and chopped basil.
Add the chicken stock to the mixture. Add the porcini stock cube as well. At this point transfer all the contents of the frying pan to the big pan or pot.
Cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally and adding liquid if your soup gets too thick, as farro absorbs the liquid with all the flavours.
Serve with the grated pecorino cheese on top and a nice chunk of bread, or Italian style bread rolls.

I had this soup for lunch today, and I think it is even better the next day, as the farro acquires the silky texture. A nice combination of robust tomatoey flavours and strong cheese works well with the soft farro. There was enough for 5 generous helpings (yesterday's dinner, my own lunch today and two portions that went in the freezer).

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