Farro. Have you had it before? I hadn't, until today. On my travels up in Cleveland, I ran across a bag of farro and bought it with this recipe in mind. In case you haven't heard of farro before, it is an ancient grain with a nutty flavor and firm texture. It also happens to be one of the first cultivated grains of ancient Italy. It is used in salads, pilafs, soups, and also in place of pasta.
Cheesy Baked Farro
Adapted from Giada at Home
Vegetable oil cooking spray
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups warm milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups low-soldium chicken broth
2 cups farro, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cups assorted mushroooms, cleaned and sliced
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
2 -1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 400F. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
For the sauce: In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly until the sauce is smooth and thick, about 8 minutes (do not allow the mixture to boil). Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
For the farro: In an 8-quart stockpot, bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the farro, lower the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain if necessary.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until tender. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender.
In a large bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese, Gruyere cheese, Fontina cheese, and thyme. Remove 1 /2 cup of the mixture and set aside. Add the cooked farro, sauce, and mushroom mixture to the cheeses. Stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the 1/2 cup reserved cheese mixture. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake until the top is golden brown and forms a crust, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before servings.
Notes/Results: It looks very brown and unappetizing, but I promise that it is delicious. I really loved the nutty taste of the farro combined with the nuttiness of the cheese. In fact, the whole family enjoyed it. This is something that I would definitely make again!
I made quite a few changes to the original recipe. I halved the recipe, leaving out the mushrooms and using diced canned tomatoes in place of fresh cherry tomatoes. I also subbed out extra Parmesan in place of the Gruyere (which I didn't have on hand). Other than that, the only other change I made was to add more chicken stock to the farro so that the chicken stock didn't cook out and in addtion, I cooked the farro a little longer, until tender, about a total of 30-35 minutes.
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