Zuppa Di Farro E Fagioli – Farro and Bean Soup

Farro is an ancient grain, cultivated in the Mediterranean Basin and probably in other regions around the world for 8,000 years, very popular with ancient Romans and Etruscans. Farro has not undergone the same genetic manipulation and cross breeding as wheat, that took over most of the land because of larger profits and easiness to grow. Recently Farro has become very fashionable again, thanks to its exceptional nutritional properties and benefits to our health.

There are 3 different kinds of this cereal: the one we use in Italy for cooking is called “emmer” in English, or Triticum dicoccum in Latin. It contains less gluten than wheat, thus is easier to digest. It’s rich in proteins and fibers, which help keeping bad cholesterol under control. Of course, as all cereals, it has carbs but it also has a low glycemic index. This makes it good for people with diabetes. It is also rich in various minerals, making it an alley for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are different kinds of this cereal in commerce, pearled farro and semi pearled farro have the bran – the hard outer layer – removed completely or partially, making it faster to cook, but thereby losing some nutritional properties. The best would be to use the farro integrale, whole grain, with the bran, which is richer in all these nutrients. It requires a longer prepping time though, as it should be soaked overnight before cooking.

One place for sure where farro was not forgotten is Tuscany, and more particularly Lucca, where it is the main ingredient of the Zuppa, a thick winter soup used to fill the stomach and warm the heart. As always, the variations on this recipe are numerous, with a list of them included in “Il pan unto Toscano”, a cookery book written around AD 1700 by the Jesuit monk Francesco Gaudenzio. We will keep here to the most traditional and basic version, with Farro and red beans, leaving to your fantasy the possibility of adding some cabbage, or potatoes, or other legumes, or more winter vegetables that you have handy.

When the weather gets cold and winter looms – which is rare in Los Angeles where I now live – the call for winter soups become very strong, and I long for the smell of a hot soup simmering on the stove. So, pardon me for publishing the second recipe of a soup in a row, but if not now, when? That being said, farro has a variety of uses, lots of them also for summer recipes, that we will explore in a couple of months when the hot sun shines again.


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For 4 Servings

1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons of EV Olive Oil
½ glass of white table wine
1 pint chicken stock preprepared (or vegetable stock)
1 cup rinsed blueberries
1 cup roasted chestnuts or more, chopped in big pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons gorgonzola cheese (optional)