5 min read

Stone Soup #2: Farro - Farro Lasagna Bake

Grain, grain, go away

Stone Soup is an ongoing quarantine feature in which I come up with a recipe that uses the impossible thing in your cupboard, without making you go to the store or wasting any of your ingredients. Yesterday, we figured out how to make broccoli into a comfort food.

Bobbie writes:

Hey there — I have a bag of farro (bought because I went to Denver and the cute little breakfast place served farro as an oatmeal replacement in a delicious dish with raisins and brown sugar.) Now it sits on the shelf and mocks me.

Bobbie also included a link to a google spreadsheet with a complete inventory of her pantry, which I love. I made a similar spreadsheet in the first frenzied week of isolation. My intention was to track everything my household was eating to make sure that consumption was happening at a sustainable rate — but really, it just served to make me feel better. That “there’s nothing in the pantry” feeling is hard to listen to when you’ve got a huge spreadsheet that reflects all the food you actually have on hand.

My inventory, like Bobbie’s, included a bag of farro:

I’d had the bag for a few years, and I never wanted to cook it, because how? Also why? It menaced me from my cupboard. I shoved it behind the pasta, along with my shame. But then the pasta ran out, and I was confronted with the farro, and this was the result:

Farro Lasagna Bake

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Fucking do it. You’re going to forget if you don’t do it now. Go on. Do it.

Step One: Acceptance. You’re out of noodles. You’ve been through the cupboards 400 times. There’s no more pasta in the house. It’s time to pivot.

Step Two: Cook the farro. This is easier than you think it’s going to be. Heat a giant pot of water to a gentle boil. Add some flavor to the water. Bobbie’s inventory includes soy sauce, onion, crushed garlic, and a variety of herbs and spices, so: Peel and large-dice the onion and add it to the water along with a few healthy splashes of soy sauce, a couple of cloves’ worth of garlic, a handful of salt, a bay leaf or two, and some dried rosemary or thyme. Depending on what you have at home, you can also use chicken stock, miso paste, a bouillon cube, a quartered lemon, a few whole cloves of garlic, a peeled and halved shallot — up to you, sky’s the limit, etc.

Then dump in the whole bag of farro, give it a stir, and reduce the heat to low. Give it a stir every ten minutes or so, and start checking for doneness after about thirty minutes. You’ll know the farro is done when it has the texture of a pillowy barley. It should be toothsome, but not tough.

When it’s done, drain it by tipping the whole pot into a colander. Don’t rinse it, but do pull out the bay leaves and the lemon, if you used them.

Step Three: Prepare a red sauce. I did this while the farro was cooking. Bobbie’s inventory includes tomato sauce, cooking wine, and ground turkey, so: in a high-sided skillet, cook a fist-sized portion of the ground turkey with salt, pepper, soy sauce, and crushed garlic. Then add the tomato sauce plus a half-can’s worth of water and a cup of cooking wine. If you have balsamic or red wine vinegar around, add that, too. Give it a good stir, and then add all the herbs and spices your heart desires. I like to use black pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and a little cinnamon. Let this bubble away while the farro cooks, adding more water or wine if it thickens up too fast.

When the farro is drained and the red sauce is the right consistency — thick enough to hold a valley for a second if you pull a spoon through it — return the farro to the big pot you cooked it in. Add most of the red sauce to the pot and stir them together.

Step Four: Cheese Prep. Bobbie’s inventory includes 3.5 blocks of cheddar cheese, plus a few cans of sprinkle cheese, which I’m guessing means that powdered parmesan-flavored stuff in the green can. Perfect. Shred that half-block of cheddar and combine it in a big bowl with a few healthy shakes of “sprinkle cheese”.

Step Five: Pan time. You need a 9x13 pan for this, the kind you’d use to make a casserole or a rectangular birthday cake. You know how in Step Three, you added most but not all the red sauce to the farro? Take the sauce you reserved and pour it into the bottom of the 9x13 pan. Spread it around with the back of a spoon if you need to.

Then drop half of the farro into the pan. Smooth it into a relatively flat layer, but don’t pack it down. Sprinkle half of your cheese on top of that. Repeat with the other half of the farro and the other half of the cheese.

That’s it. Put the pan into the oven for about 30 minutes, until the cheese on top is brown and bubbling. It’s okay to finish this under the broiler to get a good solid cheesy crust. The result is a satisfying, nourishing bake that hits the Lasagna Button without putting a cinderblock in your belly. I recommend serving this with a green thing on the side, if you have a green thing handy.

Just the recipe:

Farro Lasagna Bake

  • Bring a huge pot of water to a boil. Flavor the water with what’s handy, which can include: soy sauce, onion, crushed garlic, and a variety of herbs and spices, chicken stock, miso paste, a bouillon cube, a quartered lemon, a few whole cloves of garlic, a peeled and halved shallot, etc.
  • Cook an entire 16-oz bag of farro until done, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain into a colander. Do not rinse.
  • While the farro is cooking, make a red sauce. Start by cooking ground meat with onion, garlic, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Then add crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, a few splashes of balsamic or red wine vinegar, a half-cup of water or beef stock, and a cup of cooking wine. Stir to combine. Add herbs and spices of your choosing (example: black pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon). Simmer, stirring occasionally, until farro is cooked.
  • Combine cooked farro and red sauce, reserving ~.25 C of the red sauce.
  • Shred half a block of cheese. You can use pretty much any cheese you have for this — cheddar, swiss, and jack are best.
  • In a 9x13 pan, layer as follows: reserved sauce, then half the farro, then half the shredded cheese; then the remaining farro, then the remaining cheese.
  • Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes, until brown and bubbling. Finish under the broiler if necessary. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.