Farro with Mushrooms and Bacon

Mushroom Bacon Farro Risotto

A few months ago, I was gifted a very large bag of farro, over five pounds of it. I never thought I could have enough farro, and sure enough, I’m almost at the end of it.

Farro is popular in Italy, and nowadays, it’s available in the United States and elsewhere. It’s a particular strain of wheat, similar to wheat berries, or épautre, in France, known elsewhere as spelt, emmer, and/or einkorn. But I’ve never found anything I like as much as the real-deal. So I was happy to have so much farro on hand!

Mushroom Bacon Farro Risotto

I often just cook it up and add diced roast vegetables to it, for a no-nonsense winter salad. But I’m always on the prowl for other uses for it. Rolando, who gave me the farro (and owns Manicaretti, a company that imports it) said, when he handed me the hefty sack of it, “Just cook it up like risotto, David. It’s delicious!” And he was right – it is.

Mushroom Bacon Farro Risotto

Farrotto starts out somewhat like risotto, but unlike risotto, is pretty forgiving once you get going. With risotto, you need to watch the pot and add stock slowly as it cooks. Farro, on the other hand, doesn’t need a lot of tending once you’ve added it to the pot. You just add the stock, and richly flavored mushroom liquid (in the case of this recipe), and in about an hour, you’ll have a big, generous pot of earthy tasting farro, punctuated by bits of chewy bacon and an abundance of earthy mushrooms. Some say you could use barley in place of the farro, or perhaps wheat berries (or emmer, or spelt), although I haven’t tried it with this recipe. (Although now that I’m near the bottom of my bag, I may give barley a try.)

Mushroom Bacon Farro RisottoMushroom Bacon Farro Risotto

Even better, unlike risotto, farro reheats beautifully. (Risotto never seems to be the same to me, if it’s rewarmed.) One of my favorite food columns is Food for Health, by Martha Rose Shulman, in the New York Times. From Garlic Soup to Green Goddess Dressing, and Whole Grain Macaroni & Cheese, I seem to bookmark a lot of her recipes. Last week I actually went through two enormous files of recipes I’ve clipped over the past few decades. A few of hers were in there, as well as an unusual number of recipes for braised short ribs, which admittedly, are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Which may be why I haven’t gotten around to them…yet.

Mushroom Bacon Farro Risotto

I liked her version of Farro with Mushrooms, but made a number of adjustments. For one thing, I added bacon. I like the background flavor it gave the mushrooms, and provided the nutty farro with a little meaty “backbone,” so to speak. I also dialed up the Parmesan, and tinkered with a couple of other things. I get asked a lot about do-ahead recipes, healthy recipes, and recipes that can be adapted, and this one checks off all of those boxes.

Mushroom Bacon Farro Risotto

Feel free to swap out artichokes and peas for the mushrooms, when they’re in season. Another option would be to add chopped, sautéed radicchio (or other sturdy greens, like kale or chard) during the last few minutes of cooking. You can omit the bacon, or replace it with chunks of chicken or smoked tofu. And for those who are avoiding wheat, you could try it without the farro, swapping out barley. If you do, I’d be interested in knowing how it came out in the comments. (Unless I get to it first!)

Farro with Mushrooms and Bacon
Print Recipe
4 generous servings
This is a great, hearty winter dish. It was inspired by Farro with Mushrooms from Martha Rose Shulman in The New York Times. I made several changes, including adding bacon and adjusting the quantities to my liking. It can be made in advance and rewarmed on the stovetop. Vegetarians can omit the bacon and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock. The dried porcini mushroom liquid provides lots of flavor, so try to track some down. (Specialty shops often carry them, although Asian stores usually carry other varieties of dried mushrooms, which can be used.) If you suspect your dried mushrooms may have some grit, after you've soaked them and squeezed them out, you could swish them in a small bowl of water to remove any grit. The liquid could be passed through cheesecloth, to trap any debris. I used thick-cut unsmoked bacon. (Pancetta works well, too.) If using smoked bacon, try to find one that's not too smoky; you don't want to overwhelm the nutty flavor of the farro. Good-quality bacon can be found in natural foods stores, farmers markets, and at butcher shops. Farro can be found in Italian specialty stores and online. It's sometimes available "pearled," but I used whole grain farro for this recipe. (Rustichella brand.) If you use pearled, note that it cooks faster so you'll need to keep an eye on it, and adjust the cooking time. Follow the instructions on the package for using it.
1/2 ounce (15g) dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups (355ml) water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup (135g) diced thick-cut bacon or pancetta,
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
12 ounces (340g) brown mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and quartered (about 4 cups)
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (215g) farro
3/4 cup (180ml) dry white wine
2 1/2 cups (590ml) chicken stock, preferably homemade (or low-sodium)
1 cup (90g) grated Parmesan
1/2 cup (40g) chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add the dried mushrooms, and let stand 15 to 30 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, then squeeze the mushrooms to extract as much liquid as possible. Chop the dried mushrooms into small pieces and set aside. (If you get the sense that the mushrooms had grit in them, you can pass the liquid through a very fine-mesh strainer, and swish the mushrooms after they've been soaked in a few changes of water until they're free of dirt, before chopping.)
2. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot or medium-sized Dutch oven, over moderate heat. Add the diced bacon and cook a few minutes, stirring, until it's cooked through. Add the onions, garlic and rosemary, and cook 2 to 3 more minutes, until the onions are soft and wilted.
3. Add the mushrooms and season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (The bacon and stock have salt, so you can add more later, if needed.) Cook the mushrooms until they're soft and cooked through. Stir in the farro and cook for another minute or two, stirring frequently. Add the wine and continue to cook until the wine is almost completely absorbed.
4. Pour in the chicken stock, the mushroom liquid and stir in the chopped dried mushrooms. Increase the heat until the liquid begins to boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover. Cook until the farro grains are tender and almost all the liquid is absorbed, about 50 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every so often.
5. Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan and parsley. Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

Serving: Serve warm with more freshly grated Parmesan cheese grated over the top.

Storage: The farro can be made up to three days ahead, and rewarmed on the stovetop. It'll get thicker as it sits so you may need to add additional stock or water when you rewarm it.

Related Posts and Recipes

Roasted Root Vegetable and Wheat Berry Salad

Farro: An ancient and complicated grain worth figuring out (NPR)

Artichoke Freekeh Risotto

Grain Exchange (NYT)

The Bold Flavors of Dried Mushrooms (Fine Cooking)

 

 


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65 comments

  • January 23, 2017 11:13am

    Making it this week. Ticks all the family boxes (except that husband doesn’t like one-dish meals; each item should be separate, which seems to be a French thing).
    I recently read that mushrooms from Ukraine (around Chernobyl) are smuggled into France for sale, so make sure you know the provenance of what you buy.

  • Matthew Newman
    January 23, 2017 1:59pm

    Unfortunately, barley isn’t gluten-free. I know you mean well and most people who have gluten issues would be aware of the fact that barley isn’t gluten-free but it would only require a brief search to discover this fact. Even though I can no longer eat most of your recipes, I still like reading your infectious prose and seeing your beautiful photos.

  • January 23, 2017 2:20pm
    David Lebovitz

    ToF: Yes, I saw a “hidden camera” segment on TV6/Capital where they went to a wholesale market and showed the labels of origin lying on the floor. I am pretty sure it’s mostly wild mushrooms that one needs to be wary of in France (and Europe), although I think it’s hard to tell and likely doesn’t apply to button mushrooms, which are easy to cultivate, perhaps…

    Matthew: Whoops, thanks. I think I’ve had this discussion before with others. So many people ask me about gluten-free options (and I’m not gluten-free, obviously) but I try to give them an idea of what could be used. I edited it.

    • Alene
      January 23, 2017 8:07pm

      I will try quinoa and let you know how it works. But not today or tomorrow! Maybe Wednesday, lol.

  • PL
    January 23, 2017 3:37pm

    Love farro! It tends to be a go-to side for us. Will have to try this recipe.

  • Gayle
    January 23, 2017 5:09pm

    I wish farro would get more press here in the US. Diabetics are surprised to know that farro is low on the glycemic index, so they can enjoy farro in place of rice…although I think farro is so much more versatile than rice.

    Excellent recipe, David. As I always have farro at home, it may go on the table later this week. Thanks for another interesting post!

  • January 23, 2017 5:19pm

    Farro is such a satisfying grain. I might have to make this recipe soon. It looks delicious.

  • Mary Ford
    January 23, 2017 5:28pm

    This recipe is wonderful, and you are a terrific writer. However, you were not gifted with a bag of farro. You were given a bag of farro. It was a gift. Gift is a noun; give/gave/given – verbs. Please help stop this abomination of misuse of the English language. It needs all the help it can get, especially now.

    • Bahb
      January 23, 2017 10:38pm

      Mary, lighten up and you too might be gifted with something wonderful, like a big bag of Farro. if you have to fight over words, fight over the ones used on the Women’s March yesterday by Madonna. Make your fight worthwhile!

    • Anne
      January 24, 2017 4:47am

      So many nouns have become verbs; we toast our toast, vacuum with our vacuums, and corner people in corners!

      • January 24, 2017 8:51am
        David Lebovitz

        Thanks to all for chiming in. (I didn’t realize that it actually is a very, see comment below, so you learn something every day!)

        I prefer to keep the focus of the blog on the food, content, and recipes, rather than punctuation and grammar. I tried working with an editor on the blog but it added a few days to the publication of each blog post and in the end, I realized that the free-flowing nature of a blog was more important than making sure I used a semi-colon correctly. I realize in the past few years, blogs have gotten a lot slicker, but I still want to keep mine fun for everyone…including me! :)

    • Carlo Tresca
      January 26, 2017 3:20pm

      Language is a living thing – especially English.

    • Chris
      February 1, 2017 1:44am

      I agree with David. If an innocent misspelling or the breaking of an obscure rule doesn’t detract from the flow of communication, why pounce on it? Having said that, I must admit I’m still driven crazy by the sloppy misuse of common words such as ‘there, they’re and their’ and ‘your and ‘you’re’. They’re not interchangeable and anyone boasting a basic primary school education has been taught the difference between them, so why do people (not David, thankfully) constantly repeat and reinforce their misuse? Balance is a good thing but we should all be pulled up by the grammar police now and then.

      • Chris
        February 1, 2017 2:00am

        Oh, and David, you mentioned making this with barley. One of my favourite midweek dinners is a recipe very similar to this, using barley. It works beautifully and it is every bit as forgiving as farro to reheat (or indeed, to eat cold)

  • carvingthyme.com
    January 23, 2017 5:29pm

    Love your blog David andI love farro. I make a version of this during the winter months. Last time I had no bacon around, so I added mashed anchovies with butter and garlic (Gentlemen’s relish) and baked Belgium endives(also in butter!) as a side dish. Worked out well!

  • Ella
    January 23, 2017 5:55pm

    Love farro! I regularly make a baked farro risotto with tinned San marzano tomatoes, great lashings of parmigiana, garlic, mushrooms and baby spinach. Divine! This looks fantastic – thanks for the sub for pork as I do not consume pork products. And I second the comment re turning nouns into verbs. Please don’t.

    • January 23, 2017 6:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s actually somewhat French. Words (and concepts) like “Food” and “Makeover” become fooding and relooking…so you’re in good company with the Académie française, who oversee the language and I don’t think the immortels who make the decisions, have officially approved them…yet. : )

      • Karen
        January 23, 2017 11:59pm

        Love your blog and love farro.

        “Gift” as a verb is English too–a transitive verb, according the Oxford English Dictionary (a pretty reliable source)…

        ” a. trans. To endow or furnish with gifts (see chiefly gift n.1 6); to endow, invest, or present with as a gift.”

        So thanks for gifting us with your recipes and writing!

    • Bahb
      January 23, 2017 10:33pm

      I was gifted with a bag of Farro too, and you word-police are an annoyance, by the way! Grow up and make-up a few words yourself!

  • January 23, 2017 6:06pm

    Farro as risotto is an excellent idea – love the additional ingredients, looks delicious!

  • January 23, 2017 6:37pm

    The Grain Bar at the Great Northern Danish food court in Grand Central has an array of savory porridges that are actually grain-ottos (sp?), and now with your recipe I can’t wait to replicate my favorite (chicken and cabbage) at home. You are so hygge! :)

    • January 24, 2017 8:53am
      David Lebovitz

      That food court is pretty amazing, isn’t it? In some ways, it should be a model for train station food in other places. I’ve heard about The Grain Bar and someday want to try it, although with the homemade tofu place you mentioned a while back…!

  • Karen Attaway
    January 23, 2017 7:27pm

    Is there any need to soak the farro overnight? I bought a bag a couple of months ago and have yet to find a recipe I liked. I love this recipe, so it will be my first attempt cooking with farro.

    • January 23, 2017 7:39pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve never soaked it overnight. You can use it as is, although some people soak in the hot water for 15 or so minutes before cooking, but I didn’t for this recipe.

      • Karen Attaway
        January 23, 2017 8:21pm

        That’s good to know. Thanks so much! BTW, you have the best food blog on the interwebs & the prettiest cookbooks.

      • GregO
        January 25, 2017 3:10pm

        Try to soak it in some ‘Pickling’ Liquid as I do it for my pilaf or beans.

  • January 23, 2017 7:30pm

    Beautiful, and so perfect for winter! You just can’t go wrong with bacon, earthy mushrooms and toothy whole grains – yum.

  • Peter Longenecker
    January 23, 2017 8:11pm

    We regularly make a Chicken and Farro Soup. The recipe is from a book from the kitchen at the American Academy of Rome. The book is essential if you regularly make soups: Zuppe

  • Ingerid
    January 23, 2017 8:19pm

    This looks like a great recipe! Here in Norway barley-otto is somewhat in fashion, in its own modest way, and it’s a really nice everyday (really inexpensive) luxury. Works best with rustic ingredients like the ones you use here. Whole barley needs soaking, perhaps 8 hrs or a little less, but is quick-ish to prepare. Pre-cooked brands are instant, but the cooking times are just a bit shorter, and the flavour is less satisfying in some cases. We don’t have pearl barley here, but I remember from England that the texture is a bit boring compared to whole barley, the flavour being about the same. Thanks for posting this nice recipe (actually enlightening me on the question of what farro is, Italian barley, spelt or wheat:) and for the blog, which is a big favourite!

  • Sharon
    January 23, 2017 8:40pm

    OK – on my list. BUT I have an excellent suggestion for your leftover risotto. Put in some extra Parmesan, mold it into patties, about 1.5 inches thick. Chill, or freeze for a bit. Then put the patties in a skillet of hot olive oil, brown on both sides and serve with a bit of sauce or alone. My hubby doesn’t love risotto, but he LOVES this!!

  • Juliet
    January 23, 2017 9:16pm

    I make Smitten Kitchen’s Farro with tomatoes all the time, subbing in barley since farro is hard to get in NZ and it works beautifully, so i’m guessing it’ll work well here too. One to bookmark for autumn (although with the summer we’re having…)

    • Jessica M.
      January 23, 2017 11:31pm

      I second the recommendation for Smitten Kitchen’s tomato farro recipe – it’s excellent! I also love her barley risotto with spinach. Yum! This looks great as well.

  • Peg
    January 23, 2017 9:32pm

    I also make Smitten Kitchen’s farro all the time – it’s a throw it all in the pot, let it go and it turns out so good. Anxious to try this recipe – love farro! Thanks!

  • Jennifer
    January 23, 2017 9:33pm

    Thanks for reminding me that there’s half a bag of farro sitting in my cupboard! I cooked it for the first time ever a few weeks ago–a simple Italian soup of farro and leeks in chicken stock–and after enjoying its nutty chewiness that way, we agreed that the taste of farro cries out for mushrooms. I soaked it overnight last time, after reading numerous conflicting recipes online; will try it in this recipe tonight, unsoaked, and see how the cooking time compares.

    • GregO
      January 25, 2017 3:20pm

      Last time I’ve heard chestnuts were crying

  • Marcia
    January 23, 2017 10:01pm

    David, you’re fine. Gift is a verb as well as a noun. Mary, etc, if you’re going to be a pedant, get it right.

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gift

  • Janice
    January 23, 2017 10:35pm

    David, I’ve really enjoyed your blog. I discovered farro only a couple months ago and we now have it at least once a week. I’ve been toasting it lightly before adding the stock to it; and I saute onions and mushrooms (ordinary buttons) and add to it. Now I’ll add your version to it (minus the bacon). Thank you.

  • January 24, 2017 12:49am

    Lucky you getting a big sack of farro! This is one of my favorite uses for farro–farrotto with assorted mushrooms. Next time I’m going to add bacon!

  • Sandra Alexander
    January 24, 2017 3:32am

    Thank you for this great recipe, and for an always entertaining and informative blog. And David, you are a gifted writer!

  • January 24, 2017 4:30am

    David, your farro risotto recipe is such a welcome change from the ordinary risotto dishes. I enjoy varying the grains I use. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  • Gayle
    January 24, 2017 2:37pm

    I commented above about farro, but I’d like to add a thank-you to all who added their own uses for farro.

    I love some of the ideas, and will try them.

    Thanks, everyone!

  • mumimor
    January 24, 2017 7:57pm

    Thank you for great inspiration – I couldn’t get the farro, so tried with pearl barley and it was delicious!

  • Roy Tompkins
    January 24, 2017 11:47pm

    This is the perfect antidote for the current state of affairs and just what the doctor ordered. I decided to take a much needed break from the madness that surrounds us and check out your blog. I had most of the ingredients on hand and the pot is simmering on the stove as I write. Thank you for a much needed distraction and a reason to get back to what’s important.

  • Roy Tompkins
    January 24, 2017 11:50pm

    This is the perfect antidote for the current state of affairs and just what the doctor ordered. I decided to take a much needed break from the madness that surrounds us and check out your blog. I had most of the ingredients on hand and the pot is simmering on the stove as I write. Thank you for a much needed distraction and a reason to get back to what’s important!

  • Don
    January 25, 2017 3:19am

    Oh my was this amazing. I just fnished my last bite. I made this recipe exactly as it’s written and it was amazing. My wife agrees that this is just as good as a home made risotto although it doesn’t take the place of risotto. I found that quartering the mushrooms was a great idea (I would normally slice them). The chew of the farro is unlike anything I’ve ever had, as is the chew of arborio rice. I’m envisioning a version of this finished off with lemon rind and mascarpone. Maybe shrimp and omit the bacon and mushrooms? Not sure but thank your this amazing recipe. You could toss this one into your next cook book. Do you ever use freekah? Another amazing grain.

  • Faith Echtermeyer
    January 25, 2017 5:01am

    David! I prostrate myself before you. This is so incredibly delicious- maybe the best cold weather dish I’ve ever eaten. And so basically simple-farro, porcinis,and bacon, then improvise from there. I’ll make a version of this every week all winter long.
    Only one problem. Somehow our Jack Russell has managed to eat almost half a pound of raw bacon.
    But thanks anyway; it’s not your fault.
    Faith

    • January 25, 2017 7:49am
      David Lebovitz

      Ha! I remember when my dog was alone one day, and somehow managed to get to a loaf of bread off the counter. (She was a basenji, and they know how to jump.) I came home and noticed she suddenly had a big belly and I thought she was pregnant (!)…until I realized she’s eaten an entire loaf of bread. After that, I started storing the bread on top of the refrigerator.

  • Faith
    January 25, 2017 5:10am

    I just solved the deliciousness puzzle; this is a Triple Umami Hit:
    Porcinis
    bacon
    parmesean
    no wonder it’s so damn delicious!!
    Faith

  • Andi
    January 25, 2017 8:01am

    I imagine certified gluten-free groats (unrolled oats) would be a delicious gluten-free substitute. Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they may be processed in mills with wheat, for those who need to be careful about such thinks.

  • friedalighthouse
    January 25, 2017 9:11am

    Made this for dinner last night using wheat berries. It was fabulously delicious! I think that wheat berries might not absorb as much water as farro–it was soupy, and at the end I raised the heat to boil off some liquid. Next time, if using wheat berries, I’ll try less liquid.

  • Sean
    January 25, 2017 2:55pm

    Hi. I made this using pretty much everything in the recipe except the rosemary. I added carrots & kale and used red wine i/o white. I thought it was fantastic. Even better the next day for lunch.

  • Janet
    January 25, 2017 4:15pm

    Made this last night with pearled barley and pancetta, everything else as written and it was perfect. The pearled barley cooks faster, about 30 minutes or so. Delicious!

  • Rony
    January 26, 2017 9:49am

    Made it yesterday, turned out fantastic!!!! A dollop of créme fraiche made it even better :)

    And instead of farro, I used these mix bags they sell in monoprix- it has farro, wheat berry, barely, oats and whole rice. I always use it when I make smitten kitchen farro risoto and it cooks evenly even though it’s a mix.

    By the way, being able to use nouns as verbs is what I love the most in the english language!
    Hebrew would be so much cooler and less old if we could do that :)
    Thanks for the great recipe!

  • V.J.
    January 26, 2017 5:23pm

    I never tried Farro but make similar dish with mostly barley and rice, about 3:1ratio, but I have a different technique. I cook the rice and barley separately the traditional way, fry the bacon, saute the onion while the grains are cooking then mix it all together with good amount of garlic, salt and pepper to taste, moisten with broth and bake in the oven till it crisps a bit on the top.
    I am a big fan, David.

  • January 26, 2017 8:55pm

    I was so pleased to come across this recipe. I made it last night and followed it to a t. It was a smashing success. I will add, I disagree with the suggestion to add unsmoked bacon. We really enjoyed the added level of earthiness from the smoked bacon. But I am a Kentuckian, so… Happy to add this to my repertoire.

  • Judy F.
    January 26, 2017 9:40pm

    I’m out of farro can substitute with wheatberries ? Thank you David, love your blog and cookbooks!

    • January 27, 2017 7:47am
      David Lebovitz

      Check paragraph #4 where I discuss that. Someone also left a comment about using wheat berries in regards to cooking times; since various strains of wheat are different, they might vary.

  • Bianca
    January 27, 2017 10:17pm

    Superb. So easy to throw together. A smashing success!

  • Karen
    January 29, 2017 4:08am

    Oh, this was so delicious! Just finished scraping the pan to get the last bits. Thank you so much, David, for all the pleasure you bring us — gustatory as well as literary.

  • Joycie K
    January 31, 2017 10:55pm

    This is a great recipe. Delicious! My husband and son were very skeptical about farro, but they ended up loving it and asked me to make it again.

  • DK
    February 1, 2017 11:08pm

    This looks great! Anyone have any thoughts on how this might go in a pressure cooker for Step 4?

    I got one for Christmas and am still using it with all the new-toy fervor of a kid with a new doll.

  • Ttrockwood
    February 2, 2017 4:35am

    I love farro and mushrooms and martha rose shulman’s recipes so this will be on my weekend menu once i get more farro! I’m a big fan of her column and actually made this farro meets tabouli style salad several times, perhaps for your next huge bag of farro once spring herbs start popping up
    https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016766-chopped-herb-salad-with-farro

  • Donna
    February 2, 2017 11:57pm

    Wondrous winter fare for the Jura!! This looks so satisfying and COZY simultaneously…If I cannot locate faro…could I try using sarrasin or the oat groats another commenter mentioned above? Darya isn’t the only nutritionist eye-balling this exquisite offering…Merci bien!!

  • Janet
    February 5, 2017 5:10am

    Just made this to go with a beef roast for dinner. It was so good! I usually make farro with butternut squash and bacon but I think we like this one better. Thank you for the idea. Perfect for a cold rainy night!

  • Jeff
    February 10, 2017 8:13am

    I’ve prepared this twice so far, and I will do so many times again. The first time, I used leeks and red wine, because that’s what was at hand. Spectacular! Tonight, I used the specified onions and white wine, but used cheap and readily available dried shiitakes in place of the porcini (again, because they were here). Both preparations were incredibly delicious. This is the best new recipe I’ve encountered in several years! Thank you David!