Spinach & Mushroom Farrotto
If you watch cooking shows as often as I do, you know the lore of risotto. It’s always the downfall of the rising contestant - wrong consistency, not enough stirring, under-cooked rice grains. The list goes on. Of course being the over-confident cook that I am, I wanted to defeat the risotto. I made it a few times and it was notoriously finicky and required a lot of babysitting. But when it did turn out well, it was a real show-stopper. It’s both a comfort food and an elevated dish. It’s who I strive to be as a person - approachable and familiar, but also you know, a classy bitch.
Over time, I wanted risotto to become part of my weeknight rotation but because of its decadence, I wanted to make it more weeknight and health-friendly. After some reading, farrotto seemed like a perfect spin. As the name implies, it’s made with farro, a fiber-rich whole grain. I also played around with the amount of cheese and other fats - it didn’t make a difference to reduce the amount of cheese and skip the butter all together. Building flavors instead with things like anchovies and mushrooms (dried and fesh( produced a fantastic result. The ultimate game changer for me, however, was thanks to America’s Test Kitchen. Their technique of pulsing the farro grains a few times in a blender to break them up and release the starches made for a dish that came together in about 30 minutes and one that did not compromise the creamy texture. Farro grains can be tough and you could soak them overnight before make a farrotto but ain’t nobody got time for that. A few pulses in the blender breaks up the grains well for the perfect texture. This recipe also does not need you to stand over the stove and keep stirring, like a normal risotto might, so you can go live your life while this cooks. Load it up with mushrooms and spinach and baby, you’ve got a great weeknight meal.
1 cup farro (not pearled or quick-cook)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 anchovy fillets
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 oz dried mushrooms
8-10 fresh baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 + 1/2 cup warm water
2 cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed
1 tbsp thyme leaves
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cups spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Tip: Careful with the salt. Anchovies and Parmesan are salty. The chicken broth will have some salt, so start with small amounts of salt and add more as needed, or else you’ll end up with a salty mess!
In a kettle or in the microwave, heat 1.5 cups of water. Submerge and re-hydrate the dried mushrooms by pouring the 1 cup of hot water over the mushrooms and covering them with a lid. Set aside for at least 20 mins.
In the meantime, pulse the dried farro in a blender six times. You should be left with about 1/3 of the grains whole and the other 2/3 broken up.
Heat up your chicken broth in the microwave and set aside.
Now place the pot you’re using to cook the farrotto over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and anchovy fillets and break up the fillets until the melt away, about 30 seconds. Quickly add the diced onion and sliced fresh mushrooms. Cook for 5 mins, stirring frequently. Next, add the farro grains and the minced garlic cloves. Toss everything and cook another 1-2 mins, stirring frequently. Then add the white wine and cook for 2 mins, or until the smell of the alcohol has cooked away.
Then add the re-hydrated mushrooms into the pot, followed by the liquid they were steeping in, and the warmed chicken broth. Mix everything in well and add a little salt and pepper to taste. Bring the heat down to medium, cover the pot with a fitted lid and cook for 20 mins undisturbed.
Remove the lid and stir well and add in the additional half a cup of warm water, and cook for uncovered for 5 mins, stirring non-stop. Lower the heat to medium low and add in the thyme, Parmesan, and lemon juice. Add in the spinach leaves and stir for a minute or until wilted. Taste and add more pepper and salt if needed. Serve!