Farrotto allo Zafferano con Pignoli Tostati

Creamy Farro with Saffron and Toasted Pine Nuts

Farrotto allo Zafferano con Pignoli Tostati

I recently received an absolute treasure trove of Rustichella d’Abruzzo products from Rolando Beramendi of Manicaretti Italian Food Importers. Rustichella D’Abruzzo products, the ones that come in the brown bags, have been a favorite of mine since I was first introduced to them in the mid-eighties by food writer Kristine Kidd. I decided to start with the farro (FAHR-oh).

For those of you new to the heirloom grain game, farro is an unhybridized wheat that has been around since man first cultivated cereal back in the Neolithic age. It is not barley. It is not spelt. It is, to be specific, Triticum dicoccum. The kernels can be served whole in salads, side dishes, soups, stews or stuffings. Interest in farro has been building since the nineties, and today it is all the rage in the food world, representing as it does, a return to the old ways of farming and the resurgence of traditional foods.

Whole kernel farro is available in processed and unprocessed form. Unprocessed farro, even with a pre-soak, can take up to an hour to cook. The grains are often refined through a polishing process known as pearling. Farro thus processed is described as either perlato or semi-perlato, referring to just how much of the hard outer husk and bran have been removed during processing, with semi-perlato retaining more of the fiber and nutrient content. The upside of the refining process is much quicker cooking times, anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes. Always read the package directions to check on the cooking time and see if a pre-soak is called for. Semi-perlato farro cooks up best with a brief pre-soak, and retains more of its toothsome bite than farro perlato.

Farrotto allo Zafferano con Pignoli Tostati
Farro holds up well after cooking, with grains that remain separate, resist getting gummy, and retain their texture over several days. Think of recipes that call for rice (white, brown or otherwise), barley, or bulgur, and chances are that farro will make a happy marriage. Its satisfying bite and chewy texture make it a particularly good match for nuts and dried fruits. Farro is so versatile that it can even be used in sweet dishes, and the proof is in food writer Domenica Marchetti’s Baked Farro Pudding. Slow food, sweet and perfect for a cold morning.

You can also purchase farro flour and make your own farro pasta or use it in breads and other baked goods. Farro puls is a coarser grind that can be used to make porridges and puddings and is delicious when prepared like polenta. Cook it up and layer it with a meat ragù or, my favorite, a mushroom ragù (coming soon to my site.)

Gianluigi Peduzzi of Rustichella d’Abruzzo works with local farmers in the comune of Penne in the Abruzzese province of Pescara to grow over 100 tons of a local variety of farro known as farro vestino (the Vestini were early inhabitants of the area.) The grain is harvested in late spring, and like another Abruzzese favorite, cicerchie, thrives in poor, rocky soil. Rustichella d’Abruzzo sells a semi-pearled version they call “Whole Farro” that is available online from Market Hall Foods.

I decided to use the farro to make a farrotto – a dish cooked in the style of risotto. This cooking method yields perfectly cooked grains of farro enrobed in a creamy, rich sauce. It is a delight on its own or as an accompaniment to a sumptuous beef roast or a Thanksgiving turkey.

Zafferano Saffron
Zafferano (saffron), another of Abruzzo’s culinary treasures, adds a hauntingly subtle backdrop of flavor to the dish. The spice is cultivated on the Navelli plain where the dark soil and frigid nights make for perfect growing conditions. It is harvested in October, just as the farro is being planted in neighboring Pescara. Shaved Parmigiano adds a salty bite and pleasing garnish to the farrotto. A vegetable peeler drawn against the side of a piece of Parmigiano makes quick work of forming the shavings. And finally, with a unique flavor and soft chew that yields more willingly to the bite than farro, the toasted pignoli (pine nuts) are a wonderful counterpoint to the grain.

Farrotto allo Zafferano con Pignoli Tostati

Farrotto allo Zafferano con Pignoli Tostati

Serves 4

This very rich dish is best made with an unsalted, light homemade brodo. If you opt for a commercially prepared brodo, purchase one marked “unsalted” or “low-sodium”, or try Stock Options, an excellent frozen product. If you find that your brodo is very heavily flavored, I suggest substituting 2 cups of water for an equal volume of brodo, otherwise you risk creating a dish that is overpoweringly rich. Take the time to mince the shallots very finely so that they melt into the farrotto, and sauté them gently. If browned or scorched, they will impart an unpleasant and bitter taste to the farrotto. The same goes for the pignoli. Toast them carefully as they too can develop a bitterness that has no place in this elegantly flavored farrotto.

1½ cups farro Rustichella d’Abruzzo Whole Farro
⅓ cup pignoli
6 cups brodo di pollo (click for the recipe)
Very generous pinch, about ¼ teaspoon, zafferano threads
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup finely minced shallots
½ cup dry white wine
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, OR Grana Padano, plus more to shave over farrotto
Fine sea salt
Black pepper

Soak the whole farro in cold water to cover, about 20 minutes. While the farro is soaking, adjust the oven rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the pignoli on a small rimmed baking sheet and toast on the middle rack until light golden, about 8 minutes, stirring twice. Watch the pignoli closely to avoid scorching. Remove the pignoli from the oven and set aside.

Pour the brodo into a large saucepan. Bring it to a very gentle simmer, and hold it there. While the brodo heats, place the zafferano in a large metal utility spoon, and hold it over an open flame to toast. Once it has begun to release its fragrance, remove it from the flame, transfer it to the bowl of a mortar. Grind it well, and set aside.

Pour the olive oil into a 4-quart, heavy-bottom Dutch oven, and heat over a medium flame. Add the shallots and ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt. Sauté the shallots, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent and very soft, being careful that they do not color at all. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the farro all at once, tossing to coat. Toast lightly, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Pour some of the wine into the mortar. Stir, and pour the zafferano-tinted wine into the Dutch oven. Add the remaining wine, using some to completely rinse the zafferano from the mortar. Combine well, and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine has reduced almost completely.

Add enough hot brodo to the pan to just cover the farro. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring attentively until the brodo is almost completely absorbed, and a wooden or silicone spatula leaves a broad, dry path as it is pulled across the bottom of the pot. Continue adding more brodo, a ladleful at a time, to cover, and repeat this process until all the brodo has been added and the mixture has taken on a creamy, risotto-like appearance. Remove the pot from the heat, and add the softened butter, grated cheese, and several grinds of black pepper, stirring briskly to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more fine sea salt and pepper, if desired.

Spoon into serving bowls, sprinkle with toasted pignoli and top with shaved cheese.

Adapted from The Southern Italian Farmer’s Table by Matthew Scialabba and Melissa Pellegrino

Note: You can click on any picture for a slide show!

Disclosure: I received the product mentioned above for free. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I otherwise have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.

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  1. Comment by Ilaria Guidi:

    Bellissimo e buonissimo questo piatto…complimenti! 🙂

  2. Comment by Anna:

    Beautiful recipe! I live in Abruzzo and make a similar farrotto. It is great on cold winter days! Instead of Parmigiano, though, I use local pecorino stagionato, to make sure that all igredients are authentic Abruzzese!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Anna,

      How fortunate you are to live in Abruzzo. You are so right – with the pecorino you would have “the real deal.” I bet it is delicious with the local cheese. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  3. Comment by TheKitchenLioness:

    Cara Adri, farro is indeed delicious and so good for you – I could not agree with you more, it holds its shape splendidly when cooked – beautiful recipe with fabulous ingredients – my kind of food.
    Hope you and your family spent a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving!
    All the best,

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Andrea,

      I am so glad you enjoy farro. It is so satisfying, and I bet you work miracles with it. We had delightful Thanksgiving. Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season to you and yours!

  4. Comment by Tania@MyKitchenStories.com.au:

    Farro really is the most delicious grain that is so very useful for lots of dishes. Lucky you getting try out all of those Rustichella d’Abruzzo pasta products

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Tania,

      I love farro. It is so satisfying. And yes, I am lucky indeed. The Rustichella line has always been a favorite of mine. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Comment by marcela:

    oh wow! soo good! I\’m in NY (finally) so tomorrow\’s gonna be a big day !
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Comment by Rosetta Costantino:

    Hi Adri, Great post! Wanted to let you know that I am a big fan of farro. Last year we replaced our risotto stuffing for Thanksgiving with farrotto and everyone loved it. I will add the saffron to it this year. Once almost cooked I mix in wild mushrooms that I saute separately with olive oil, garlic and parsley and then I add more vegetables like sauteed fennel, carrots, celery and whatever else I have. This will be our side stuffing (I don’t stuff the turkey, we are doing a rotisserie turkey this year). Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Rosetta,

      Thank you! Now doesn’t a farrotto stuffing with mushrooms sound divine. We always use wild rice for stuffing, and as I was eating the farro it dawned on me how similar the texture of the two are. You have inspired me to try a farrotto stuffing. I love that you are doing a rotisserie turkey. I hope you write about it. I bet it will be great. Bart will be most envious. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  7. Comment by Carolyn Jung:

    That’s my favorite way to cook farro, too — risotto-style. I often top a bowl of it with roasted shrimp or a quick saute of mushrooms and peppers.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Carloyn,

      I am so glad you are a farrotto fan also. Your two versions sound great, especially the mushrooms and peppers. The earthy flavors of both the farro and fungi are a match made in culinary heaven. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  8. Comment by Jess:

    I’ve had such a hard time trying to find farro but I have been wanting to use it for so long. This recipe looks amazing, I need to try and figure out where to get it from!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Jess,

      I do not know where Market Hall Foods ships, but you might ask them if they will ship to you. If you have an Italian store nearby, ask them if they can stock it. It is such a delight. I hope you have an opportunity to taste some soon. Alla prossima!

  9. Comment by Lynne @ CookandBeMerry:

    I love the chew of farrow and your dish looks so creamy. I love dishes flavored with saffron, so along with the parmigiano, it looks like have hit all the food groups. Nice work.

  10. Comment by Trisha Thomas:

    Hi Adri — Yet another gorgeous post. I actually had never tasted farro in my life until I came to Italy. It is the perfect fall food and you have provided what looks like a fabulous recipe. But as always, I appreciate your posts for so many other things — the writing — saffron that creates a “haunting subtle backdrop of flavor”, the details the farro “perlato” or “semi-perlato”, the history — who would have ever guessed farro goes back to the Neolithic age, and the photos — your spidery saffron and pearly farro kernels are lovely.
    It is always such a pleasure to read your posts. Un abbraccio, Trisha

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Trisha,

      Well if my article is half as nicely written as your comment, I am home free. Thank you for the kind words, and I hope that you try this one. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  11. Comment by Kristi Rimkus:

    This is one of the few recipes I’ve seen for farro. I found a bag of quick cooking farro at our local grocer and have been hooked ever since. Lovely recipe!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Kristi,

      I really enjoy farro. From cold salads in the summer to soups, stuffings, and hearty vegetarian stews in the winter, this versatile grain is so satisfying. Thank you for stopping by and for taking a moment to comment.

  12. Comment by Krista:

    Oh my, this just looks so creamy and luscious and nourishing. 🙂

  13. Comment by Karen (Back Road Journal):

    I have had and enjoyed farro but have never cooked with it. Your dish sounds wonderful and perfect for our cold weather.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Karen,

      This is cold weather food, without a doubt. From soups to dishes like this, farro is perfect for the wildly cold weather so many are experiencing. I hope you give this one a go. I bet you will enjoy it. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  14. Comment by 2 Sisters Recipes:

    WE started liking farro only recently and enjoy it mostly in salads. This dish is one recipe we will definitely love to try. Also Adri, we have to tell you how much we enjoy visiting your blog each and every time. You give a culinary education and experience about the food and ingredients- that we never knew about until we met you. And for that, we thank you!
    Have a wonderful week and Happy Thanksgiving!
    xoxo Anna and Liz

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Anna and Liz,

      Thank you so much for the kind words. I so enjoy food writing. Of interest to all of us, it offers endless variety and topics galore. And I hope you try making some farrotto. I would love to see what you two come up with. I amsure you will make something wonderful. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  15. Comment by Frank @Memorie di Angelina:

    Well, you’ve written the book on farro, Adri! Or at least the post… 😉 I’ll need to bookmark this for future reference. Although I’ve enjoyed farro from time to time, and despite all good intentions, I’ve never gotten around to actually making it! Some of us need to get out more.

  16. Comment by Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar:

    Oh wow! I love farro and this looks awesome! Such a fun recipe.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Katrina,

      Thank you! I have been so pleased to hear how many people enjoy farro. I hope you try this one. It is perfect for a chilly evening. Alla prossima!

  17. Comment by Mette:

    I’ve got some whole Farro and will definitely give this a good try. Thanks for sharing, Adri.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Mette,

      I hope you enjoy this! just be sure that you follow the package cooking directions – especially if you’ve got whole farro. It really needs a pre-soak and a plenty of time to cook. Un bacione a te!

  18. Comment by domenicacooks:

    Thanks for highlighting the wonderful products of Abruzzo, Adri. It is freezing cold here in the mid-Atlantic and a bowl of your farrotto sounds perfect right about now.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Domenica,

      Well, with food like this it is an absolute pleasure to spread the word. The place rocks. There is no doubt about it. And about your weather, I have been watching in utter amazement. My mother grew up in Buffalo, NY. It is out of control up there. I’d agree that a bowl of this farrotto would hit the spot. As my dad used to say “It sticks to your ribs.” Thanks for stopping by, and for that great farro pudding recipe.

  19. Comment by Paola Lovisetti Scamihorm:

    What a great post. I love farro and I use it in many recipes. I have not tried it yet with zafferano. Thanks for sharing. Un abbraccio

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Paola,

      I just love farro, and it is so popular herein the U.S. these days. I bet you will enjoy the zafferano. It adds such a luxurious note. Grazie, amica!

  20. Comment by cheri:

    Hi Adri, beautiful dish, love faro!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Cheri,

      Thanks for the kind words. I am so glad to hear that you are also a fan of farro. I love it. Let’s see what you do with it! Have a wonderful holiday.

  21. Comment by Sippitysup:

    The first time I had farro was at one of Batali’s places in NYC and I just couldn’t get enough. Sadly I thought it was just an Italian name for barely and I tried to recreate with barely several times before I was set straight! This was of course in the pre-google days. GREG

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Greg,

      Well, it is time for you to show us what you can do with farro. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. I know it will be buonissimo! Happy Thanksgiving to you and Ken. Alla prossima!

  22. Comment by bellini:

    I bought some farro a while ago with the intention of replicating a salad I had tried in July. You know how time gets away with you, well now it is time for warm, comfort foods.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Val,

      Tempus fugit. I had a couple of warm weather farro salads that I had wanted to put on my site this summer, but before I knew it, fall was upon us. So I say carpe diem and make some zuppa or farrotto. Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  23. Comment by Laney (Ortensia Blu):

    As a huge farro fan, I love the addition of the pinoli…it must give it that extra bit of crunch and texture. Beautiful recipe…as always!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Laney,

      Farro really does rock. I am glad to hear you enjoy it also. The toasted pignoli are a terrific addition. Toss some on next time you make it. You will enjoy the contrast. Alla prossima!

  24. Comment by janie:

    I brought some farro back from the Garfagnana and this looks like the perfect dish to cook with it.

  25. Comment by David:

    Che bello! And, happily, I have farro in the cubby, zafferano in my spice rack and plenty of homemade brodo. I see this on my table for Thanksgiving Eve! Thanks, Adri!

  26. Comment by Bam's Kitchen:

    A beautiful dish of comfort! I don’t think I have ever tried farro and now I will keep my open for it in the markets as it seems like this little grain has so much potential to be used in many dishes. However, I love your simple addition of saffron, pine nuts and the king of cheeses. How is the home project coming along? It has been fun following along on facebook. Take Care, BAM

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Bam,

      I hope you can find some farro. I bet you could work wonders with this grain. It has such taste and character, and is indeed versatile. As for the home, it is coming along nicely. We had a bit of unanticipated delay with our windows, but I guess these things are to be expected! We are still hoping to move in in late spring of next year. It will be here before we know it. Thank you for checking in.

  27. Comment by Cakelaw:

    This dish looks so good. I adore pine nuts.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Cakelaw,

      I am glad you liked this one. The pine nuts really are wonderful here. They have a distinct chew, like the farro, but they are different enough to offer a real contrast. I hope you give this one a go.

  28. Comment by Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella:

    This is such a coincidence! I was going through my fridge this afternoon and realised that I had a lot of farro that I needed to use. And then here you are with a recipe! 😀

  29. Comment by Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti:

    Adri you raies farro to a new level with this recipe with the addition of saffron and pines nuts! I must try this. It looks so delicious!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Pat,

      Grazie! You will love it. The saffron was a real splurge, senza dubito, and the pinenuts are an amazingly great match for the bite of the farro. Alla prossima, amica!

  30. Comment by Tandy | Lavender and Lime:

    I have never seen faro here but the dish looks amazing! I will look out for the ingredient when I am next overseas 🙂

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Tandy,

      I hope that next time you travel you can get some farro. IT really is unique, and you will love it, especially if you enjoy these grains. It has such character and is so versatile.

  31. Comment by Traci | Vanilla And Bean:

    I’m attempting to get more farro into my diet and this looks like the perfect dish to help me accomplish that! So excited to infuse saffron into this delightful recipe! Lovely site Adri! I’ll be back!

  32. Comment by Choc Chip Uru:

    I absolutely love how your farro looks, such a comforting and inviting dish 😀
    Always love visiting!

    Choc Chip Uru

  33. Comment by nancy at good food matters:

    Hi Adri, first of all, thank you for clarifying what farro is (and isn’t!) and describing the levels of processing. Semi-perlato for me! like several of your readers, I don’t cook with it as often as I should, and your post is a timely one. It’s been unusually cold this week in Nashville, and a bowl of your farrotto would be warming and satisfying.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Nancy,

      I am glad to be of service. It can get real confusing, and then when you pile on the bit about perlato and semi-perlato things get quite murky. Somehow for a while now, people have thought of farro more for cold or room temperature summer salads, but it is really terrific in cold weather dishes like soups and stews. I look forward to seeing what you do with it.

  34. Comment by Phyllis@Oracibo:

    Adri, you are a woman after my heart…we love farro in soups and especially in “farrotto” and we adore saffron too! How can you go wrong…it’s almost impossible to get semi-perlato or even perlato here so I bring it home from Italy! We have the whole grain but I have found it never really cooks up the way we like it in a farrotto. I have that cookbook too!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Phyllis,

      I’m glad you enjoy farro. What a pity that it is difficult to find the perlato or semi-perlato farro where you are. I’m with you about the unpolished farro never quite cooking up right for a farrotto. Maybe some of your shops will get with the program! I really have enjoyed the book. It has been a source of inspiration ever since the first day I opened it. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  35. Comment by Hannah:

    I just love the unique texture of farro! It’s such a treat to cook and enjoy, especially since it’s still fairly difficult to find around here. You definitely did the wholesome grain justice here by keeping the seasonings simple yet flavorful. Sounds like an instant classic!

  36. Comment by Ciaochowlinda:

    Adri- it’s rare that I cook with farro, but I just bought some and used it in a soup the other day. I like the idea of making this risotto-type dish and will have to give it a try. How wonderful that these old time grains are coming into the spotlight.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Linda,

      I just love farro, and this one from Rustichella d’Abruzzo is spectacular. It has a wonderful chewiness to it, and the grains or kernels stay separate. It is wonderful in soup. I’m with you about being glad these heirloom grains are now in such favor. They are so full of flavor, and they are so good for you – real food, shall we say.

  37. Comment by John@Kitchen Riffs:

    What a great dish! Farro is such good stuff, but for some strange reason I can’t fathom, I almost never use it. Just not in the habit, I guess. Although it’s a habit I should acquire! Excellent post — thanks.

  38. Comment by Daniela:

    All our family likes farro very much and this recipe is a must try, it looks amazing.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Daniela,

      It really is wonderful, and it is an interesting twist on the typical method of preparation. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks so much for stopping by!

  39. Comment by Anthony Fama:

    This sounds delicious

  40. Comment by Pat:

    This looks really good and I love farro…..I think I could do this, thanks?

  41. Comment by Amy @ Fearless Homemaker:

    This sounds SO wonderful, and what a beautiful color from the saffron! I wish you could deliver some right to my door for dinner!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Amy,

      You’ll be a farro expert soon. And indeed, the saffron is an extraordinary color. I love it, and most people do not think of it as something “Italian” but Italy produces some of the world’s finest saffron. Alla prossima!

  42. Comment by Chiara:

    Un post bellissimo dedicato ai prodotti di eccellenza italiana, splendida ricetta Adri , un abbraccio !

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