Until recently, I had found that exploring different types of pasta was mostly limited to trying different shapes, those infused with flavorings such as spinach or herbs and those made with coarse, dry flours that seemed more like eating sawdust than food. Today, however, there seems to be an influx of pastas on the market that are of much better quality and made with different types of flours like brown rice, quinoa and my new favorite, farro.
Farro, also known as emmer, is a type of wheat that has been around since early Roman times. Until recently it was relatively unknown in the U.S., but has long been a staple in Italy, particularly in the central regions like Umbria and Tuscany.
I like it because it has a full, earthy almost nutty flavor and it doesn’t have a coarse, gritty texture. It is also high in protein and vitamins and has a lot more to offer from a nutritional perspective than traditional pastas. Farro pasta also holds together extremely well when cooked (unlike some of the other alternate flour pastas on the market) and lends itself as well to light, subtle accompaniments as it does hearty, full flavored ones.
My favorite way to eat it is with some good quality extra virgin olive oil, chili flakes, garlic and grated Parmesan cheese. This simple combination really allows the flavors of the pasta to shine through. Some other interesting preparations are to combine it with a nutty pesto, like in this recipe from the blog The Pink Peppercorn, to serve it with the unusual combination of beets, poppy seeds and brown butter, as is done in this recipe from New York Magazine, or to toss it with a hearty mushroom ragout as suggested in the blog Last Night’s Dinner.