Farro Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Cranberry Beans

farro risotto

I love risotto, pasta, bread. You name it. I’m a carb fanatic.

But whenever I eat a big plate of pasta or a huge bowl of white rice, I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve done my body good. Enter whole grain risottos made with complete, protein-rich less processed grains like farro.

Barley works nicely here, too. Prepare these grains like risotto (by adding warm broth gradually as you cook them) and you get a wonderful comforting dish like risotto. A little less creamy perhaps, but full of satisfying, grainy goodness, and nutrient-rich besides. Add beans and you have a vegetarian meal with a complete set of proteins.

Serve a bitter chicory salad and you’re all set. Farro is an ancient whole grain that is similar to spelt and it’s also wonderful in soups and salads. You can cook the beans a day or two ahead to streamline the process. Use the method in this recipe.

Farro Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Cranberry Beans

Serves 4 to 6

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup farro
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
2 cups mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup cooked cranberry beans using the method in this recipe
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms and let sit for 20 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer.

Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat in a large, deep skillet. Add the onion and sauté until fragrant and soft. Add the farro and cook, stirring, to toast. Add the white wine and stir until it evaporates.

Lower heat to medium, and begin adding the broth, one cup at a time, stirring in each addition in until absorbed. You don’t have to stir the entire time so you can move onto the next step while continuing to attend to the risotto. The process of cooking the grain will take up to 45 minutes.

While cooking the risotto, drain the soaked mushrooms through a coffee filter to catch any sandy particles. Reserve the mushroom soaking liquid and add to the simmer broth. Chop the reconstituted mushrooms coarsely and heat one tablespoon olive oil and one tablespoon butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat.

Add the shallot and cook, stirring until soft. Add the reconstituted, chopped mushrooms, along with the fresh mushrooms to the skillet with the shallot. Cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are soft and beginning to brown, adding the thyme leaves during the final three minutes of cooking.

While cooking the mushrooms, continue adding the stock to the farro and stirring in each addition. Begin tasting the farro when 2/3 of the stock is gone. It should be nearly tender with a toothsome bite. If it is still hard, add water to the simmering broth to stretch it.

When the farro is nearly tender, and the broth is nearly gone, add the sautéed mushrooms and beans, along with some salt and pepper. When the broth is gone and the farro is tender, add the Parmesan, reserving a little to sprinkle over each serving. Adjust the salt and pepper and serve hot, sprinkled with the reserved Parmesan.

Recipe Copyright Vanessa Barrington 2009

Note: Use organic and local ingredients whenever possible.

Image: giffconstable

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.