Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan

5 from 2 votes
45 minutes
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Here’s a twist on classic Italian risotto that’s pretty much everything! It’s healthier, less work, leftover-friendly and just plain 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!

Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan in white enameled cast iron skillet garnished with fresh basil.

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!

Uncooked farro in glass jar.

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:

  • Pearled
  • Semi-pearled
  • Whole

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.

How to Make Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan:

Recipe Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this farro risotto recipe along with how to prep. See the recipe card below for the exact quantities.

Ingredients for Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan in glass bowls.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • 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 not to 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, 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. Vegan versions of Parmesan cheese are available if you want to make this dish vegan. Remember that you would also want to use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth for a vegan or vegetarian version.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • 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.
Onions being cooked in white cast iron enamel skillet.
  • Stir in the farro and coat it with the fat.
Process photo after wine is added and before broth is added.
  • 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 1/3 of the vegetable or chicken broth and bring to a boil. Let that simmer until the farro has absorbed the broth.
Process photo after broth is added being stirred with wooden spoon.
  • Repeat with 1/3 more broth…
Process photo of farro risotto after broth is absorbed being stirred with wooden spoon.
  • Add more broth as needed along with the tomatoes.
  • Simmer until the rest of the broth is absorbed and the tomatoes begin to burst.
Process photo of farro risotto after tomatoes are added being stirred with wooden spoon.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes and heat through…
  • MAKE AHEAD:  Place a rimmed sheet pan in the freezer or refrigerator while making the risotto to chill. Cook the risotto to the point of adding the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.  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.
Process photo of farro risotto after crushed tomatoes are added being stirred with wooden spoon.
  • 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.
Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan in white cast iron enamel skillet with serving spoon.
Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan in white cast iron skillet with serving spoon.

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • I was a little lazy, but you can hurry the tomatoes along by cutting them in half before adding them to the farotto.
  • Although you still add the broth in stages in this recipe as with a traditional risotto, you don’t need to stir it continually. 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.
Two servings of Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan in white bowls garnished with basil leaves.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Should you rinse farro before cooking it?

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.

Can I make Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan ahead of time?

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.

How do I reheat farro risotto?

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 reheating individual leftover portions, add a little water or broth and heat them in the microwave.

Can I freeze farro risotto?

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.

What are more uses for farro?

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.

Make it a meal with:

More farro and farro-adaptable recipes:

Get all my meatless recipes at Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes – From A Chef’s Kitchen

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Tomato Farro Risotto with Basil and Parmesan

5 from 2 votes

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
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.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Side Dishes – Beans, Rice & Grains
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4
Calories 470 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion - finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 1/2 cups farro - rinsed
  • 1/2 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
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese -plus- 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese - for garnish
  • Salt - to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper - to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil - plus more for garnish

Instructions
 

  • 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 1/3 of the vegetable (or chicken) broth. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the broth is absorbed, 5-7 minutes.
  • Repeat with another 1/3 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.

Notes

Hurry the tomatoes along by cutting them in half before adding them to the risotto.
SUBSTITUTIONS:  May use barley in place of farro.
MAKE AHEAD:  Place a rimmed sheet pan in the freezer or refrigerator while making the risotto to chill. Cook the risotto to the point of adding the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.  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.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY:  Cool thoroughly.  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.

Nutrition

Calories: 470kcal | Carbohydrates: 68g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 1146mg | Potassium: 386mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 888IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 182mg | Iron: 3mg

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.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment, star rating or post your photo on Instagram and tag @fromachefskitchen.
5 from 2 votes (1 rating without comment)

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Recipe Rating




4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this tonight because I didn’t feel like cooking and wanted something quick and easy. This was delicious! I served the farro risotto with grilled Italian Chicken Sausages that took 5 minutes on the grill. My family couldn’t stop saying what a great meal this was. A keeper for sure in the summer or winter. Will be making this again. Thank you Carol. Your recipes have never disappointed.

    1. Hi, Linda, Thanks so very much!! So glad you and your family enjoyed! Love that you paired this with Italian chicken sausage; sounds great. Thanks again so much for reading and the kind words!

      1. Thanks Carol. One of the reasons we enjoyed this recipe so much is that although it tasted very rich and creamy, there was no butter or cream in the preparation. On a hot summer night, it was still light, fresh and delicious with the fresh tomatoes and basil. We had leftovers for lunch today and it was still as good as last night.

      2. Love that! Thanks, Linda! We enjoyed the leftovers too–more than traditional risotto which about all you can do with it is risotto cakes.