Here’s a twist on classic Italian risotto that’s pretty much everything! It’s healthier, less work, leftover-friendly and so good! Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan is a hearty vegetarian main dish or side dish you’ll put on repeat.
Try it with Parmesan and Herb-Crusted Lamb Chops for an Italian-inspired feast everyone will rave about!
Why This Recipe is a Keeper!
Traditional Italian risotto is made with arborio or carnaroli rice, which, if made the traditional way requires all your attention. It has been described as a “clingy baby” that you can’t put down or leave.
Traditional risotto has this reputation because it must be stirred frequently while hot stock or broth is added in small amounts so all the rice grains are cooked evenly. Risotto made with arborio or carnaroli rice can easily overcook if not watched carefully.
But, did you know that “risotto” is actually a cooking method that can be applied to almost any grain, along with things like finely diced potatoes or pasta such as orzo?
In this recipe, the “risotto” method is applied to farro, a lovely, nutty ancient grain that’s rich in nutrients. Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan is a delicious way to enjoy all those nutrients!
What is farro?
Farro is considered an “ancient grain” because it has been around for thousands of years. It is believed to have originated in Mesopotamia and has been a staple in the Italian diet for centuries.
According to Web MD, farro is very nutritious, with more plant-based protein and fiber than brown rice and has important minerals like magnesium and zinc.
Although it’s referred to as a grain in itself, it’s actually the grains from one of three wheat species:
- Spelt, or farro grande (not be be confused with a relative of wheat known as spelt which is a grain in itself)
- Emmer, or farro medio (the most common variety found in the U.S.)
- Einkorn, or farro piccolo
You’ll typically find three different types in grocery stores:
The cooking times for each will vary, ranging from 15 minutes for pearled to 45 minutes for the whole farro. If you don’t know which type you have, check it after 15 minutes or so.
Here’s all you need to know about farro from Good Housekeeping magazine. Keep in mind that because farro comes from wheat, it is NOT gluten-free.
Besides being easy to make with the delicious, winning flavor combination of tomato, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, you’ll love this “farrotto” recipe because it’s also leftover and freezer-friendly.
Let’s make it!
- Farro: Bob’s Red Mill is a very reliable and widely-available brand. The grains are lightly scored which allows for faster cooking time.
- Dry White Wine: If you prefer to not use wine, substitute a little extra vegetable or chicken broth.
- Fresh Tomatoes: I used grape tomatoes, but because they’re small, cherry tomatoes also work. If you have larger tomatoes you prefer to use, simply cut them into pieces that are about the same size as cherry or grape tomatoes. This recipe is very forgiving in that respect!
- Canned Tomatoes: Use canned crushed tomatoes or canned whole tomatoes that you crush yourself. A can of tomato sauce will also work.
- Parmesan Cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano (produced in Italy) and Parmesan (usually domestic) cheese are both made with animal rennet. There are vegan versions of Parmesan cheese available if you want to make this dish vegan. Keep in mind, you would also want to use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth for a vegan or vegetarian version.
- Gather and prep all the ingredients.
- Heat the olive oil in a large shallow pan over moderately high heat. Add the onion, reduce heat and cook until the onion begins to soften.
- Add the garlic and give it a quick stir until it’s fragrant.
- Stir in the farro and coat it with the fat.
- Add the wine, bring that to a boil and let it cook down for a couple of minutes until it’s almost evaporated.
- Add approximately ⅓ of the vegetable or chicken broth and bring to a boil. Let that simmer until the farro has absorbed the broth.
- Repeat with ⅓ more broth…
- Add more broth as needed along with the tomatoes.
- Simmer until the rest of the broth is absorbed and the tomatoes begin to burst.
- Add the crushed tomatoes…
- Stir in the Parmesan cheese and the fresh basil.
- Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan! Delish and done! Season to taste with salt and black pepper if desired.
Chef Tips and Tricks:
- I was being a little lazy, but you can hurry the tomatoes along by cutting them in half before adding to the farotto.
- Although you still add the broth in stages in this recipe as with a traditional risotto, you don’t need to continually stir it. Just add it, stir and let it simmer. I’ve found that when I get in a hurry and add all the broth at once, that’s when the farro wants to teach me a lesson and it doesn’t need all that liquid. Different brands and the type of farro you’re using may cook up differently. See my note above in the Why This Recipe Is a Keeper section.
Frequently Asked Questions:
It’s always a good idea to rinse any grain before cooking it to remove any hidden debris. Farro in particular is covered with a dry powdery coating you want to rinse off.
You absolutely can. Place a rimmed sheet pan in the freezer or refrigerator while making the farro risotto to chill. Cook the risotto to the point of adding the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Make sure the farro has not overcooked and still has some “bite” left to it. (The Italians call this al dente or “to the tooth.”) Transfer the risotto to the chilled baking sheet and let it cool to room temperature. Transfer it to a covered container and refrigerate it until needed.
Transfer it back to a cooking vessel. Add a little broth or water to loosen it up then heat through. Add the Parmesan cheese and basil and serve!
If you’re just reheating individual leftover portions, simply add a little water or broth and heat them in the microwave.
Absolutely! Freeze in an airtight container for 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator. You may wish to add the Parmesan cheese and basil after it has thawed for a fresher flavor. However, you can certainly have it in there without an adverse effect if you’re freezing leftover portions.
Farro can be used in so many ways. Use cooked farro in salads, soups, in grain bowls, as a side dish and as a substitute for rice in your favorite recipes.
More farro and farro-adaptable recipes:
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Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ cups farro rinsed
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth (or as needed)
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 can (15-ounce) crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese -plus- ¼ cup shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil plus more for garnish
- Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or saute pan.
- Add the onion, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 5-7 minutes or until onion begins to soften.
- Add the garlic and cook briefly or until aromatic, 5-10 seconds.
- Add the farro and stir until it’s coated with oil, approximately 1 minute.
- Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook until the wine is almost evaporated, 1-2 minutes. Lower heat to medium.
- Add approximately ⅓ of the vegetable (or chicken) broth. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the broth is absorbed, 5-7 minutes.
- Repeat with another ⅓ of the vegetable (or chicken) broth. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the broth is absorbed, 5-7 minutes.
- Add the remaining broth (or as needed) along with the cherry or grape tomatoes. Simmer, stirring until the rest of the broth is absorbed and the tomatoes are beginning to burst, 5-7 minutes.
- Stir the crushed tomatoes into the risotto and heat through.
- Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese along with the basil.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve in bowls garnished with shaved Parmesan and more fresh basil.
These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.