As surely as the sun rises and sets, spring means asparagus. But finding new and tasty things to do with it can be tricky. Luckily, farro cooked like a risotto (hence, farrotto) makes a highly-satisfying, low-maintenance canvas for a spring vegetable like asparagus, especially when paired with fresh peas, a little wine, lemon, grated cheese, and ham.
This spring vegetable farro (farrotto primavera) gets cooked like risotto, but is even easier to make. First, cook the onion in olive oil until translucent. Add the farro, then white wine, chicken broth, water, lemon juice, and salt. Typically, risotto requires a lot of stirring to kick the rice’s starch loose to form a creamy texture. Farro, however, does not release starch, so it requires less stirring. Creaminess comes from the broth, then finishing with pecorino Romano cheese, and just the right amount of butter.
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A Few Notes About the Recipe for Spring Vegetable Farrotto
- The prosciutto is optional. The addition of this Italian specialty meat adds a certain salty unctuousness to the dish, and makes it more main-course ready. Prosciutto also tend to be an ideal counterpoint to asparagus. A few strips of lightly-browned bacon or some pancetta would be good substitutes here if you do not have prosciutto. But prosciutto (or its bacon-y cousins) adds salt and fat. If you want something a little lighter, this farrotto tastes perfectly delicious just with the spring vegetables.
- The peas and parsley are added raw to preserve the color. Since the base of the dish (the farro) is brown, it is important to retain the pop of vivid green from the peas and parsley. The peas will soften lightly in the warm farro when they are stirred in.
- The recipe lists no specific quantity of water. You will end up using at least a quart or so of liquid, maybe a little more — including the wine and broth. But I fall into the camp that believes that sometimes an Italian recipe has no “capital-R-Recipe”: It is done when it is done; it tastes right when it tastes right. Trust your instincts.
Spring Vegetable Farrotto (Farro Primavera)
- 1 medium onion, diced small
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups farro
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 bunch fresh asparagus, bottom ends removed and discarded
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (thawed in cool water if frozen)
- 6 slices prosciutto di parma, sliced into thin ribbons (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/4 cup freshly-minced Italian (flat leaf) parsley, plus more to garnish
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 12 turns freshly-cracked black pepper
- Cut the fresh asparagus into 1/2" coins, reserving the tips for garnish.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about three minutes.
- Add the farro. Continue to stir and cook, so that the farro gets coated lightly in oil and mixes well with the onion.
- Add the white wine. Stir gently, allowing the wine to evaporate. When almost no liquid remains, add the chicken stock, lemon juice, salt, and one cup of water. Stir to combine. Allow the liquid to simmer and cook the farro, uncovered.
- When the liquid is almost evaporated, add more water, until it barely grazes the top of the farro. Stir, and and allow the water to continue cooking the farro. Repeat as necessary until the farro is al dente.
- When the farro is almost done, add the asparagus. Stir to thoroughly distribute the asparagus, adding a little more water as necessary to finish cooking the farro. Stir in the butter. The consistency should be creamy but not runny.
- Taste the farro for doneness. It should be soft, but al dente. Remove from heat. Stir in the peas, prosciutto, black pepper, pecorino Romano cheese, and parsley. Taste for seasoning. If you are not using the prosciutto, you may need a little more salt.
- Spoon into a large serving dish. Garnish with the reserved asparagus tips, parsley, and a little extra cheese. Serve warm.