A wheatlike grain popular during the golden days of old Rome has enjoyed a revival in Italy and now is popping up in Italian delicatessens and natural-food stores here. In Italy it's called farro or farro intero; in botanical Latin, Triticum dicoccom.
By any name, the grain has an appealing earthy, wholesome flavor and a texture that's at once chewy and creamy. It makes a delicious alternative to cracked wheat, rice, and similar side-dish carbs with meats, poultry, and fish.
Cooked with sausage, then mixed with diced apples for a sweet crunch, farro makes a savory side dish for roast chicken.
Farro cooking tips
My experience in cooking farro contradicts the instructions I've come across. In Italy, I was told to soak the grain overnight, then cook it for an hour or more. The results were mushy to my taste. In reality, farro requires no soaking and cooks to tenderness as quickly as rice. Here are some basic tips.
• 500 grams (1.1 lb.) of farro is about 2 3¾ cups; each cup yields about 2 cups cooked.
• Before cooking, sort through farro and discard debris, then rinse and drain the grain.
• Use 1 part farro to 3 parts seasoned liquid, such as chicken broth.
• As it cooks, the mixture foams, so 1 cup farro needs at least a 4- to 5-quart pan.
• Simmer farro, covered, until tender to bite, about 25 minutes.
• If you want a creamy texture, let stand off the heat for about 10 minutes.
• If cooking farro ahead of time, drain while still hot; save liquid to add when reheating or ― since the grain makes a good salad ― to use as part of a dressing. Let farro cool, then cover and chill up to 2 days. Reheat in a microwave oven or use cold.