BRIE SPINACH PORTO FARROTTO

I was introduced to farro a few years ago on a trip to Italy. We were staying with our friends who live just outside of Florence (who doesn’t want friend like that!) for a few days and one day for lunch on their gorgeous deck overlooking those Tuscan hills we were served a beautiful array of fresh vegetables from their garden, grilled meat, and a side of farro which we had never had before. I don’t know how we had not come across it in our travels throughout Italy. I guess we were too busy eating pasta and pizza. Anyway, our hostess, who just happens to also be an old family friend, simply tossed some farro with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. All four members of my family had helping after helping. We loved the nutty taste of it and vowed to find it back at home in Mexico and make it all the time.

Sadly, when we got back to Mexico, I realized I had confused farro with another grain and couldn’t find it. I was so disappointed and mad at myself for not tossing a few bags in my suitcase. There may have been a few moaning sessions where we spoke with great dramatic regret. When I went back to Canada I always tossed a few bags into my suitcase to bring back home to Mexico. However, as most things go down here, I never stopped looking for it and eventually it showed up in a few of our local Italian stores and now can grab it almost all the time.

My old family friend and hostess is right. It’s so versatile which is one of my favorite things about it. I usually make a big pot of it and make it a few different ways. Sometimes I just toss in some olive oil, butter, and parmesan. Sometimes I make it the exact same way it was first served to me. And sometimes I go all out and try something new like I did last week and ended up with this delectable recipe.

Farro is an ancient wheat that is very popular because of it’s nutty flavour and unique chewy texture. It’s an excellent source of protein, fiber, and nutrients. It’s a much healthier than white rice or pasta. It’s so filling and doesn’t hurt my stomach like store-brand pasta does. It’s definitely still a favorite for me. Somehow I feel like I’m eating pasta even when I’m not.

This little dish may not look like much. But trust me, this is a gorgeous dish. You can’t see the brie that’s melted in there. The spinach wilts ever so softly into the warm farro and I just had to add some mushrooms that I browned every so slightly in some butter, but you can leave them out if you’re not a mushroom fan. I don’t understand why anybody wouldn’t be but that’s another discussion entirely.

Thank you Italy and my Italian friends. You make my world better.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 1/4 – 3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 4 TAB butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 ounces brie or camembert, rind removed and chopped
  • 1 cup loosely packed spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1 portobello mushroom, sliced and cut in bite size pieces (optional)
  • grated parmesan (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Warm broth on a stove or microwave. In a large saucepan, melt 2 TAB butter and add onion and garlic. Cook and stir for a few minutes until onion softens. Add farro and white wine. Cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed. Add about 1/2 cup of warm broth at a time and stir regularly until liquid is absorbed each time and add more. This process will take about 30 minutes. You want the farro to be al dente, with a little bit of a bite so use less or more broth

As farro is cooking, in a smaller saucepan on medium heat, melt remining 2 TAB butter. Add mushrooms without crowding, letting each one brown nicely in the butter. Flip only when you see the bottom is nicely browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip mushrooms over and do the same on the other side, adding more butter if necessary. Turn off heat and set aside.

When farro is ready, add spinach, brie, and mushrooms and stir until cheese melts and spinach wilts. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4 as a side.

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