I admit upfront that I’ve never made risotto from scratch. Does it count that I’ve salivated when watching television chefs cook and plate it? It’s a comfort-food type of rice dish, using a sticky short grain white rice that is constantly stirred to release its starch, developing a silky creamy texture.
A bit bored with rice and quinoa, I’ve been experimenting with other whole grains like farro and wheat berries, and I’m absolutely hooked. Both farro and hard wheat berries have a chewy, more satisfying texture than other grains and are rich in fiber, protein, B vitamins and some minerals like iron and magnesium.
I came across an idea from a Facebook post to use farro in a risotto, and yes it does already exist with its own name—farrotto! There’s quite a lot of technique required to make it creamy before it even comes close to the original, because farro is so high in fiber. For my own unfussy tastes, I was willing to do a variation that would produce a sorta creamy texture but that preserved the chewiness of farro that I love. The secret ingredient here is a can of pureed butternut squash (or pumpkin if you can’t find butternut).
Butternut Squash Farro ‘Risotto’
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 cup dry farro
3 cups water
15 oz. can pureed butternut squash or pumpkin
pinch salt and pepper
Optional: half a fresh butternut squash (I buy this already peeled and prepped at the supermarket) diced into cubes, sage leaves, crimini mushrooms (or any favorite mushroom)
- Heat olive oil on med-high heat in a 3 quart saucepan. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add dry farro and stir to coat grains with oil.
- Add water and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 30 minutes or until water is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
- Add canned squash and stir well until evenly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and any herbs as desired.
- You can serve as is or, in my pic below, I had separately fried up a few sage leaves and mushrooms in olive oil and added roasted butternut squash, which made the dish even more hearty.
A quick factoid that farro and wheat berries are not considered complete proteins, but may be complemented by other proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts or seeds. This recipe may also be served as a side dish to complete proteins like soy (tempeh, tofu, seitan).