October is Italian heritage month, and how better to celebrate at La Buona Tavola than with the heritage grain, Farro.
Favored by the ancients, the Roman Legions conquered the world on their daily ration. Also known as emmer, its scientific name is Triticum dicoccum. This versatile grain puts in appearances in soups, side dishes, salads, at breakfast and even in dessert puddings.
When purchasing whole grain farro, be sure to look for “Farro Perlato,” farro whose tough outer husk has been removed. It requires no pre-soaking and cooks more quickly than standard farro.
Ground into flour, farro lends a satisfying bite and the earthy smell of wheat to bread and pasta. Farro pasta is a perfect match for Black Kale Pesto. A member of the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea), black kale is high in antioxidants, iron, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein and calcium. A native of Tuscany, it is also known as Tuscan Kale, Palm Tree Kale, Nero di Toscana, Cavolo Nero, Dinosaur (“Dino”) Kale, and Lacinato. In supermarkets, ask for Dino Kale; most commercial organic farms market it as such.
Farrotto con Piselli – Creamy Farro with Peas
serves 4 as a primo or 2 as a main course
Prepared risotto style, this hearty dish is perfect Winter fare.
•2 shallots, minced
•1 tablespoon olive oil
•2 tablespoons butter, divided
•1/3 cup dry white wine
•1 cup farro perlato
•4 cups chicken stock, at the simmer
•2/3 frozen cup peas, thawed
•generous 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano, divided
•2 tablespoons toasted pignoli
Heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter in medium saucepan. Over medium low heat, cook shallots until translucent, being careful not to brown, about 5 minutes. Add farro and cook 2 minutes, tossing to coat. Add white wine and cook until evaporated. Add 1 cup simmering stock, and cook over medium heat until almost evaporated, stirring frequently. Add remaining stock, cup by cup cooking until absorbed after each addition until farro is tender to the bite and mixture is creamy, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, parmigiano and peas. Serve topped with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano and toasted pignoli.
Maccheroni alla Chitarra di Farro con Pesto di Cavolo Nero
Guitar Cut Pasta with Black Kale Pesto
serves 6 as a primo
If you have no time to make your own pasta, the Latini Pasta Company makes ten varieties of farro pasta, available in Italian markets and many supermarkets.
•1 cup all-purpose flour
•1 cup farro flour
•2 large eggs
•1/4 cup olive oil
•2 tablespoons water
Place flours in workbowl of food processor fitted with metal knife. Pulse twice. Combine eggs, oil and water in measuring cup. With processor running, pour egg mixture through feed tube in steady stream, scraping cup clean. Process until mixture forms ball. Process 40 seconds more. Remove and knead one minute. Wrap in plastic and set aside 30 minutes.
Roll dough to 1/8 inch thick sheets the length of the chitarra. If your chitarra cuts two sizes of maccheroni, place sheet of pasta on the side that makes the wider cut. With floured rolling pin, roll back and forth to cut noodles. If you have no chitarra, you can use a pasta machine. Roll to setting #4 and cut with fettucine blade. Form maccheroni into loose “nidi” (nests), tossing with semolina. Place on semolina lined towels as you proceed.
I have used pistachios, blanched almonds and toasted walnuts in this pesto, and I still have no definite favorite. The pistachios are rich and quite mild in taste and texture, the least assertive of the three. The almonds retain a nice bite and texture, and so they go nicely with the hearty raw kale. The toasted walnuts also are a fine complement to the dark greens.
•9 oz. kale, rinsed, roughly chopped, tough inner ribs removed
•2 cloves garlic
•1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
•2 tablespoons Pecorino Sardo
•2 tablespoons toasted walnuts
•1 tablespoon unsalted butter, very soft
•pinch peperoncino flakes
•1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or more, to taste
•1/2 cup olive oil, or more to taste
Parmigiano or Pecorino for service
Place garlic, nuts, peperoncino and ½ teaspoon salt in bowl of food processor fitted with metal knife. Pulse 3 or 4 times to roughly chop. Add kale. With machine running, add lemon juice and olive oil in steady stream until desired consistency is reached. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add cheeses and butter. Combine and check for seasoning, adding salt, lemon juice, or oil as needed.
Bring 6 quarts water to rolling boil. Add handful coarse sea salt and stir. When water returns to boil, add pasta. Cook until al dente.
Drain maccheroni reserving some of the water, and toss with half of the pesto. Add a few tablespoons of pasta water if necessary to loosen maccheroni. Add more pesto as desired. Serve immediately. Pass Parmigiano or Pecorino Sardo at table.