A healthy risotto recipe made with ancient grains
Winter weather requires hot, comforting food. And although comfort foods tend to be heavy on fats and light on nutrition, this farrotto recipe proves that you can layer the comfort you crave with the nutrients your body needs.
Farro is a hearty, whole grain that, when cooked in the manner of a traditional, Italian risotto, makes a creamy, comforting dish. (In other words, it’s a farro risotto, or farrotto.) In this recipe, I blend it with butternut squash to increase that creamy effect. Although you can cook many ancient grains, including barley, to produce a risotto-like dish, my favorite grain for making a healthy risotto recipe is farro.
What is Farro?
Farro is one of the oldest – possibly the oldest – grain known to man. Its use has been traced back to the ancient Egyptians. In fact, it was found in the tombs of Egyptian kings. It is a nutty grain with a satisfyingly chewy texture.
As an ingredient, it much more commonly used in Italian than American cooking. In fact, it has been cultivated in Italy for centuries. However this healthy grain is rising in popularity across the Western world It can be used in soups and as a replacement for rice or barley in salads. But my favorite use for this grain is in this rich, pasta-like dish.
The unique texture of a farro risotto
Using farro in risotto recipes gives the dishes different flavor and texture than what you get from arborio, the grain used to make a traditional risotto. Farro is a firm, whole grain with a mildly nutty flavor. In this recipe, I call for toasting it in the oven before adding it to the risotto pot. This oven toasting augments the grain’s natural flavors and helps individualize the grains. It also helps to prevent the texture of the final dish from going gummy.
Understanding the different kinds of farro
Farro is sold at most health food and specialty food stores. (But if you can’t find farro locally, do not substitute with another grain, like barley, to make this recipe.) The type of farro I use in my farro risotto recipe is pearled farro. There are three types of farro available:
- Whole farro is the most nutritious but also the most difficult to cook.
- Semi pearled, still has some of the bran.
- Pearled is the quickest cooking and still offers an eye-widening number of nutrients.
Farrotto is a sexy food
This risotto variation is not only a deliciously creamy, soul-satisfying dish, it’s layered with nutrition. As I mentioned, farro is a whole grain. But did you know that this and other whole grains are not only fiber-rich but they contain nutrients to support your sex life? Yep! a farro risotto is sexy food!
The grain is rich in several nutrients important to maintaining sexual health including zinc, iron and magnesium. (Although I mentioned that pearled farro offers less nutrition than less processed versions of the grain, a serving still contains more than 10% of the RDA for several nutrients.) In addition to the farro, my risotto recipe includes several historically aphrodisiac ingredients, like garlic, thyme and even cheese. You can also make it a pumpkin risotto instead of a butternut dish if you want to add another aphrodisiac.
Also worth noting is that this healthy butternut squash risotto features kale, which may not be sexy but is considered one of the best foods for women’s sexual health. So if you’re looking for comfort food to feed your lover, this might be the dish!
Butternut Farrotto with Kale and Parmesan
- 1 1/2 cup pearled farro
- 12 oz butternut cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 tsp canola oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 large shallot finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cup vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp Parmesan grated
- 2 cup baby kale
- salt to taste
- sprigs of thyme for garnish optional
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Toast the farro in the oven for 8-10 minutes until it begins to turn golden and smell toasted.
- Toss the butternut with oil and roast in the 425 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
- Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, shallot and thyme and cook for 3-4 minutes, until shallot is translucent.
- Add the white wine and turn heat to medium high. Cook the wine down by half, scraping any shallot and garlic bits down from the sides of the pan.
- Add in the toasted farro and 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock. Cook, stirring, until the vegetable stock is absorbed. Repeat, adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time until there is only 1/2 cup of stock left. This should take about 20 minutes, give or take 4-5.
- Add the last 1/2 cup of stock along with the roasted butternut, stirring until all the liquid is absorbed.
- Stir in the Parmesan and kale before serving, then season with salt to taste. You can garnish with fresh thyme sprigs if desired.
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