Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Farro Risotto by Herring and Potatoes

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

The first time I heard about farro was on a cooking show like Chopped or Top Chef where the contestants are thrown unfamiliar ingredients for their challenge and have to create something brilliant. I remember googling farro then and not finding a ton of information about what it was. Now you can google “farro” and find out way more than a few years ago but it’s still not the most popular of grains.More and more I’m seeing it on menus and on shelves in grocery stores. In the past year, since I’ve started cooking with it, we’ve had it in stuffings, salads, and now (finally!) risotto. It’s a nutty grain that’s toothsome and hearty. It complements fall and winter flavors so well and I have a feeling it will do very well in the summer with light cheeses and fresh fruits. Farro is also high in protein, fiber, and iron, making it a great substitute for rices and other grains.

Most recipes will recommend soaking your farro before cooking it to help soften it and cook it faster. One night, in a stretch of being supremely lazy, I decided to try making a risotto without soaking it first. Not that I mind extra steps, but in order for it to qualify as a quick weeknight meal, it needed to have as few steps as possible. It took a few minutes more to get to the consistency that I wanted it at, but my supremely lazy self was victorious! And then, to celebrate, I ate too much risotto.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Risotto wasn’t a food I was familiar with until a few years ago. I honestly didn’t eat a lot of rice dishes growing up, mostly because I thought rice was super bland. This bizarre prejudice lasted many years, and carried over to Risotto. I thought, ‘Why would anyone want to eat a big bowl of mushy rice?!”. I can’t remember when I had my first taste but it immediately changed everything I thought I knew about the dish. It was cheesy, creamy, and perfectly filling.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

The first time I made a risotto I was nervous about how it would come together. I labored over every step and double, then triple, checked recipes to make sure I was doing it right. Would it not get creamy? Would I add the stock too soon? How will I know when it’s done? The final dish was super delicious and since that first stressful experience, I’ve created many risottos on the fly, because as it turns out, risotto is a pretty easy dish to pull together.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Another bonus about making a risotto is that it’s a solid way to use up produce in the fridge. My other two favorite ways are frittata’s and big bowls of pasta. They make great ‘anything goes’ sorts of dishes.But this version – this is my ideal bowl of winter food. Portobello mushrooms, squash roasted until it’s spreadable, dark leafy greens, fresh herbs, and generous amounts of parmesan cheese make it what I want to eat too much of on a cold night.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

If you’ve never made a risotto, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t difficult. You will not mess it up. It will be delicious. You don’t need fancy one-time-use ingredients to win at this dish and it won’t take up hours of your time. Once the farro exists in your cupboard start browsing online for all sorts of recipes and tips on how to dress it up differently, or just swap it out where you would normally use rice or barley. I’m seriously crushing so hard on farro these days. After you make this, let me know if you want to start a farro fan club….I have this idea for T-shirts…

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Serves: Serves 3-4

Ingredients
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (1 for roasting, 1 for the risotto)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • ½ cup white wine (a dry wine, like a Pinot Grigio)
  • 6 cups of stock, I used all vegetable stock for this but a mix of mushroom and vegetable is delicious too
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ¼-1/2 cup roasted squash (if using a sweeter squash like a Butternut use less, I also recommend a less sweet Delicata squash for this!)
  • 1 Portobello mushroom cap, roasted or grilled and sliced into small cubes
  • ½-3/4 packed cup of shredded kale
  • 6-8 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • Red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Halve a squash and place on a lined baking sheet, skin side down. If roasting the portobello, clean and place on the baking sheet as well. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over them. After 20 min check on your vegetables- the mushroom will cook faster. Depending on the squash you are using it can take anywhere from 25 min - 1 hr to fully roast. You want the flesh of the squash to be like a puree, and spreadable. You will be mixing it into the risotto later and it needs to be completely soft. You can also blend it up to give it that consistency.
  3. Pour your stock into a pot and get it hot. Once heated through, lower the heat to a simmer and ;eave it on the stove. You'll need your stock hot as you add it to the risotto.
  4. Place a pan (sauté or cast iron or any large pan with higher sides) on medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the minced onion and garlic and sauté 3-4 minutes until slightly softened and fragrant.
  5. Add the farro and continue cooking 3 minutes, stirring constantly. The goal is to lightly toast the farro. If you were using Arborio rice you would keep going until the rice became translucent, but the farro won't do that.
  6. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the wine evaporates.
  7. Now you can begin adding your stock. Start with 2 cups of stock added to the pan. Keep stirring constantly until most of the stock is absorbed. Going forward add an additional 1 cup of stock at a time, stirring until mostly absorbed between additions. This is a great time to call your parents. It will take 35-45 minutes of stirring and adding stock.
  8. Taste the risotto towards the end of the stock in the pot. Farro will not lose it's bite entirely, but it will soften a lot. When the consistency is where you want it, lower the heat. I usually have about ½ cup of stock left but it's not an exact science.
  9. Stir in the cup of cheese until it is well incorporated. Add the squash and do the same. It will take a little careful maneuvering but the squash should distribute nicely, and just sort of melt into the risotto.
  10. Add in the kale and carefully mix it in, allowing it to wilt into the risotto. Stir in the mushrooms and sage. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes to your liking and salt/pepper to taste.
  11. Serve and eat immediately; risotto is best when eaten right away. (Which is great if you're like me, and aren't very good at waiting!)