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Rustic Bean & Farro Soup

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Serves six as a main dish; eight as a first course.

  • To learn more, read:
    Enjoying Grains
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 50

The farro can get soft if it sits in the soup overnight, so I cook it separately and add it only to the amount of soup I'm serving.

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped pancetta
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium ribs celery, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage, marjoram, or thyme, or a combination
  • 1-1/4 cups dried chickpeas or cannellini beans (or a combination), picked over, soaked overnight, and drained (or 3-1/2 cups canned chickpeas, cannellini beans, or a combination)
  • 1-1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
  • 8 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth or water
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups uncooked whole-grain farro
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for garnish
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot set over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and herbs and sauté until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.

If using dried beans, add the soaked, drained beans to the soup pot, with the tomatoes, broth or water, and 2 tsp. salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours. (If using canned beans, drain and rinse them, add the tomatoes, broth or water, and 2 tsp. salt to the soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the beans, and simmer for about 20 minutes.) Season with salt and pepper. For a creamier soup, purée 1 cup of the bean mixture and stir it back into the pot.

While the soup simmers, bring 6 cups salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the farro, reduce the heat, and simmer until it's just al dente and chewy, about 10 to 30 minutes. Drain, add it to the soup, and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes to let the flavors meld and to finish cooking. Stir to prevent scorching. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a swirl of olive oil, grated cheese, and pepper.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on eight servings; Calories (kcal): 330; Fat (g): fat g 12; Fat Calories (kcal): 110; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 2; Protein (g): protein g 16; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 7; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 43; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 820; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 10; Fiber (g): fiber g 7;

Photo: Mark Thomas

This is good but it needs something. The second time I made it I added some red pepper flakes and cooked it with a Parmesan rind trying to deepen the flavor. I'll try again because it is a good hearty soup and the texture is good. But it just needs something else to make it great, not just good. As noted, I kept the farro separate since there were leftovers. Worked like a charm!

This soup is a good, but not great. It is very hearty and has a nice texture, but my family found it a little bland. I think next time I make it I might stick a ham hock in with the beans to give it a little more flavor, and possibly about 1/2 teaspoon or so of crushed red pepper flakes.

Excellent soup. Leftovers are even better so it worked well to kep the farro separate.

This soup is quite easy to make and has become one of my favorite winter soups. I've made it with both farro and barley (farro is harder to come by and is more expensive). Since the farro really expands after a day or two I keep it in a separate container and add it when serving the soup. I add chick peas instead of beans and I've used ham hock intead of pancetta with equally good results.

Excellent soup with lots of flavor. I used barley instead of the farro. By the way, the previous reviewer said her cousin substituted spelt for the farro, but they're the same thing. "Farro" is the Italian word for spelt, so the previous reviewer commented on the recipe exactly as it was written.

My cousin made this for me over the holidays. She used spelt instead of farro. It was the best bean/vegetable soup I've ever had! Much more flavor than a typical bean soup. And, it was really easy to make - most ingredients are on hand! I'm pretty sure the pancetta is the key! I've already bought the ingredients to make my own!

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