Recipe Spotlight

Why You Should Make Farrotto (Risotto's Wheaty Cousin)

Whole-grain farro delivers deeper flavor and a more substantial chew than traditional risotto made from rice.  And we know how to make it just as creamy.

Published Jan. 19, 2023.

On a recent trip to London, I ate the best risotto of my life.

It was a parmesan-mushroom risotto, eaten from a paper bowl at the busiest stall in the city’s famous Borough Market. It had a beautifully creamy consistency, unusually nutty flavor, and a tender chew. It was perfect.

But as it turns out, it wasn’t risotto at all. It was farrotto.

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What Is Farrotto?

Farrotto is a risotto-style dish that replaces arborio rice with farro. If you aren’t yet familiar with this delicious and versatile ingredient, it’s an ancient grain that's been grown in Italy for centuries. It looks similar to barley, but farro is larger with a longer shape.

Using this whole grain instead of rice in risotto creates a more robust dish that still cooks relatively quickly and can work as a blank slate for any flavor—from cheese and herbs to meats and vegetables.

But when I came home from London and immediately tried to transform mushroom risotto into farrotto with a simple swap of the main ingredient, I discovered this was not enough. The resulting dish lacked creaminess and was almost crunchy. 

Mushroom Farrotto

This Italian grain’s flavorful bran layer makes it a challenge to coax into creamy farrotto. But the results are well worth it.
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Here’s why: Farro has bran.

Arborio rice has been stripped of its bran layer and so it easily releases its amylopectin, the starch molecule that makes risotto creamy. But farro is still whole.

That gives farro great bite and earthy flavor but also traps the starch inside the grain. As a result, farrottos can lack cohesion. 

To create farrotto with all the lush silkiness of traditional risotto, Senior Editor Steve Dunn came up with a simple but clever technique.

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How to Make Farrotto

His secret? “Cracking” the farro before cooking. Steve blitzes the grains in a blender until about half are broken into pieces. The escaped starch from these crushed pieces helps thicken the cooking liquid to yield a creamy, cohesive dish. The still-intact grains, meanwhile, contribute lots of chew.

He also adds most of the cooking liquid up front and cooks the farrotto in a lidded Dutch oven which helps trap the moisture to more evenly and quickly hydrate the farro—so you get a delicious risotto-style dish without the endless stirring. 

A hand showing how some of the farro has been cracked and is powdery while much of it is still whole after processing in a blender.

I love Steve's failproof Parmesan farrotto because it makes a delicious base for you to build your own version with any preferred mix-ins or seasonings. Try it and join me in the farrotto-convert club!

Parmesan Farrotto Recipe

Serves 6

Total Time: 1 ¼ hours

  • 1½ cups whole farro
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • ½ onion, chopped fine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • ¾ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, grated (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Before You Begin: We prefer the flavor and texture of whole farro. Do not use quick-cooking or pearled farro. The consistency of farrotto is a matter of personal taste; if you prefer a looser texture, add more of the hot broth mixture in step 6.

1. Pulse farro in blender until about half of grains are broken into smaller pieces, about 6 pulses.

2. Bring broth and water to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain gentle simmer.

3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add farro and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.

4. Stir 5 cups hot broth mixture into farro mixture, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until almost all liquid has been absorbed and farro is just al dente, about 25 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.

5. Add thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until farro becomes creamy, about 5 minutes.

6. Remove pot from heat. Stir in Parmesan, parsley, lemon juice, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust consistency with remaining hot broth mixture as needed. Serve immediately.


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