Until I traveled to Italy this past year and learned about farro in my cooking class, I had no idea what it was or how to use it. The Italians swear by this ancient grain, incorporating it in to their risotto dishes, salads, and soups (we learned to use it in to an incredible Tuscan minestrone). Grano Faro has a very unique and interesting history.
Originally from the the Fertile Crescent, farro has been found in the tombs of Egyptian kings and is the original grain from which all others derive. It fed the Mediterranean and Near Eastern populations for thousands of years and was also the standard ration of the Roman Legions that expanded throughout the Western World.
There are three varieties of farro still grown in Italy: farro piccolo (also known by the German einkorn), farro medio (also known as emmer, the Hebrew word for mother), and farro grande (also known as spelt).
The imported Italian farro available in the U.S. is usually the medio/emmer variety. It’s often semi-perlato, or semi-pearled, meaning it retains some, but not all of its bran and nutrients. Most of the time, it will simply be labeled “farro” in supermarkets, and if that’s the case you can assume it is media/emmer. The good news is that this variety does not require soaking overnight and cooks pretty fast!
In addition to using it in traditional recipes, I also love cooking farro as a warm breakfast cereal. It’s nutty taste and al dente texture is perfectly paired with some fresh fruit (I love using blueberries or even broiled peach slices..mmm), a tablespoon of chia seeds, some crushed almonds or walnuts, and/or a dollop of greek yogurt. Farro is so versatile, it really could adapt to anything – which is why I was inspired to incorporate it in to this chili!
If you’re in to canning tomatoes, this is a great opportunity to use a jar! My father has a tomato garden in our back yard and at the end of the summer always cans a bunch so we can use them in our winter dishes. When my family came to visit me up at school he brought me a few. So I thought, why not use some in this hearty chili recipe? Perfect.
1 Cup Uncooked Farro
1 teaspoon Salt
1 White or Yellow Onion
2+ Tbs Olive Oil
16oz Grass Fed Ground Beef (I used Wegmans brand)
3 Medium Carrots
1/2 Red Pepper
3 Cloves of Garlic
1 Cup Vegetable Stock
1 Tbs Honey
1 32oz Mason Jar of Canned Tomatoes OR 1 28oz Can of Crushed Tomatoes
1 6oz Can Tomato Paste
2 Cups of Sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms
1 Can Black Beans drained/rinsed
1 Can Pinto Beans drained/rinsed
1 Package McCormick 30% Less Sodium Chili Mix
Toppings: Freshly Sliced Avocado, 1 Dollop of 0% Plain Yogurt (I prefer Siggi’s), 1 Tbs Roasted Squash/Pumpkin Seeds
Rinse farro. In a medium sauce pan bring two cups of water to a boil. Stir in farro and 1 teaspoon of salt; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 15 – 20 minutes or until farro is aldente. Drain water, put in a bowl, gently fluff with a fork and place in the refrigerator to stop cooking process.
While farro is cooking, half the carrots and chop in to small pieces.
Dice the red pepper and remainder of the onion. Add all vegetables including the mushrooms, black and pinto beans, and cooked farro to the bottom of a slow cooker pot.
Slice 1/3 of the onion into thin strips & mince 1 clove of garlic. In a sautee pan, heat 2 Tbs of oil and garlic over medium heat. When garlic becomes fragrant, add onions and cook until they are translucent and begin to brown, stirring occasionally (about 10-12 mins).
Add beef to pan and begin to break it down with spatula. Cook until beef is browned, drain any excess fat/oil.
Add the beef to the vegetables in the slow cooker. Pour canned/crushed tomatoes over the top.
In a bowl add vegetable stock and stir in tomato paste, honey, remaining 2 cloves of garlic minced and package of McCormick 30% Less Sodium Chili Mix. Pour mixture over the vegetables and beef in the slow cooker. Drizzle about 2-3 Tbs of olive oil over the chili. (The chili may seem dry at first but as it cooks the vegetables break down and release water)
Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours. If more liquid is needed, add a bit more vegetable stock or water.
Serve warm with any toppings listed above or whatever your heart desires!
Refrigerate for 3-4 days. (I always prefer second day chili, it has some time to marinate and intensify in flavor!)