My kids are serious carb lovers (aren’t we all?) and can’t get enough of pasta and rice dishes. And I like a chewy white pasta as much as the next girl, but I also recognize it’s not the most nutritious of all the grain options out there. Which is why a few years ago I started swapping in farro to a lot of our pasta dishes – and it’s now become one of my family’s favorite things to eat.
This ancient whole grain has a slightly nutty but totally mild flavor, making it really kid-friendly. High in fiber, B vitamins and protein, this healthy grain has all the satisfying chew of pasta, but packs a bigger nutritious punch.
Whether you’re new to farro or just need some more inspiration, here are five awesome yet simple ways you can use farro in place of pasta or rice.
5 simple ways to use farro as an alternative to pasta or rice
First, a couple of notes on farro:
-I typically buy semi-pearled farro, which offers many health benefits and is quicker to cook than whole farro (which often requires overnight soaking).
-With regard to cooking farro, I follow a simple method that never fails: Cook it as you would pasta. Drop it into salted, boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and dress how you wish.
-Farro is also a great make-ahead grain – it reheats wonderfully and is just as delicious eaten cold.
1. Use farrro a base for fish or chicken
Switch up how you serve your salmon and try this Asian Farro Medley with Salmon recipe from Skinny Taste. It incorporates an easy Asian-style sauce that packs a ton of flavor, coating both the salmon and farro. We’ve made this quick and healthy dinner at least a handful of times since discovering it and it’s a winner!
2. Swap farro in place of pasta in soups
When my family needs a healthy reboot, I make this Tuscan Farro Soup recipe from the New York Times. Doesn’t it look incredible? I use canned or boxed white beans in my own version (shown above) and always finish with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
If you have another favorite pasta-based soup recipe that you want to try with farro instead, just make sure to account for the farro cooking time according to the package instructions.
Bonus: When you combine farro with a legume like beans, you’ve got a complete protein — perfect for vegetarians and vegans.
3. Swap farro for rice in risotto
I’ll admit that getting my kids into risotto has been an uphill battle. (Why? I don’t know.) Your own success may vary, but it’s all about what goes into the recipe. If your kids are pickier eaters, try this Sweet Corn, Gouda and Farro Risotto from Foodie Crush. This creamy recipe is a perfect transition to fall, and most cheeses will work nicely here if you’re not a gouda fan.
As an alternative, I’ve got a great idea for a weekend risotto – as in, the kind that older kids, guests or your partner will love when you have a little time to spend cooking. Bookmark our contributor Anne Wolfe Postic’s own recipe for Farro Risotto with Wild Mushrooms. Even if you’re not a fan of mushrooms. Seriously, read her post about it. It’s full of great risotto-making tips that you can apply to almost any farro risotto recipe as well.
4. Swap farro for pasta in salads, or add to hearty greens
One of my favorite, simple ways to use farro is to bulk up an everyday salad with it. Plus, leftovers make a great lunch the next day. The above version, which I recently made, is my farro salad soulmate. It simply contains toasted walnuts, cranberries, arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano — and farro, of course. We eat it plain or add roasted squash or sweet potato, chicken sausage…whatever! The key here is to make plenty of (easy) homemade vinaigrette for flavor; the farro soaks up more than you think.
5. Swap farro for rice in a one-pan skillet dinner
Grab the last of those summer cherry tomatoes, a package of farro and you’ve got all the makings of this mouthwatering One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes, Sausage and Kale courtesy of The Vintage Mixer. Have some kale-averse eaters in your household? No problem. Just replace it with spinach or arugula. Either way, this lovely, simple, and flavorful dish is bound to become a new favorite.