Sweet roasted honeynut squash, savory roasted garlic, and spiced ancho chile form the base of this creamy, nutty farrotto.
Have you ever tried farrotto before? Farotto, or farro risotto, is a preparation of cooking farro in the way of traditional risotto; that is, you slow-cook the farro in broth until tender and creamy. Compared to arborio or carnaroli rice (typical grain varieties used in risotto), farro has a chewy, nutty texture that lends well to earthy flavors.
I made this farrotto in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill (using their Organic Farro). I’m excited to dive deep into this recipe with you!
In this version of farrotto, I roast honeynut squash and garlic until soft and caramelized. Then, I blend them with vegetable stock, miso paste, and ancho chile, yielding a gorgeous burnt orange puree. Next, I toast the farro in a pan with sauteed onion, then simmer it with vegetable puree and additional stock. As the farro absorbs more and more of the liquid, it becomes tender; the liquid thickens and clings to the chewy grains. I serve the farro with a bit of chili oil on top, just to add a little something extra.
It’s a cozy bowl of goodness. The squash puree provides so much creaminess.The ancho adds a bit of sweetness and smokiness, and the miso paste and roasted garlic provide a savory edge. And you know I love smoky flavors! I’ve already got this smoky red pepper and farro soup with feta, smoky beans with eggs and pickled red onion, and this vegetarian skillet chili recipe on the blog.
The history of farro & farrotto
While developing this recipe, I was curious about the history of farrotto. I did a little deep dive and came across some interesting facts.
💡Did you know?💡
Farro is an ancient grain first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent. It is most commonly associated with Italian culture, though its use is widespread, from Ethiopia to Switzerland (in bread!) to Germany (in beer!).
Traditionally, farro was cultivated and consumed in poorer areas. In the 1950s, farro gained broader awareness and popularity throughout Europe due to its health benefits.
According to a New York Times article from 1997, farro began invading the mainstream in the United States in the ’90s. I couldn’t find an exact timeline for when farrotto first became a thing (and part of me thinks a lot of home cooks, over the centuries, have created some version of this), but most articles say it’s relatively new. In the NY times article I referenced, farrotto was just beginning to trend in popularity.
tl;dr while farro is an incredibly old (ancient!) grain, farrotto appears to be only a few decades old
Tips for Buying Farro
Purchasing farro is actually more confusing than you might expect.
Confusing point #1: Farro and spelt are not the same thing. Basically, due to some confusing language translations between English and Italian, farro is sometimes referred to as “spelt.” But the farro grains we are talking about are not spelt. Spelt grains take forever to cook and do not have the same flavor. So just make sure you don’t buy spelt!
Confusing point #2: You can purchase different types of farro. Farro comes in whole (unpearled), pearled, and semi-pearled varieties. This is similar to whole wheat versus white flour, for example, where the bran and germ are removed. The “pearling” indicates how much of the bran is removed. The more processed the farro is, or the more bran is removed, the less time it takes to cook. So, pearled farro takes the least time to cook; on the other hand, unpearled farro needs an overnight soak in addition to a longer cooking time.
Confusion point #3: Not every brand will label the type of farro. Some brands will simply say “farro” instead of pearled or semi-pearled. Okay, so how are you even supposed to know how long your farro will take to cook then? According to Smitten Kitchen, the label on the back of the package will indicate cooking times. Whole farro takes at least an hour, semi-pearled farro takes around 30 minutes, and pearled farro takes 15 minutes or less.
I use Bob’s Red Mill’s organic farro for my farrotto, and it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to cook through, so I would consider it of the semi-pearled variety. For this farrotto, I highly recommend purchasing semi-pearled farro (or a 30 minute cook) for optimal cooking times and liquid absorption.
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Ingredients in this recipe
- Farro: We already talked about this at length, but to summarize, you’ll want to purchase a semi-pearled farro (if you can’t find what type of farro it is, look for a farro with an estimated 30 minute cooking time). I use Bob’s Red Mill Organic Farro; I regularly find it at Whole Foods.
- Garlic: You’ll need a whole head of garlic for this recipe. Yup, a whole head. It adds so much sweet, savory, and caramelized flavor to the risotto.
- White miso paste: Miso paste is now a staple in most grocery stores, either in the international section by the Japanese foods or the health food aisle. Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans, and it adds nice sweet/salty/umami notes.
- Dried ancho chile: A single dried ancho chile adds sweet and mildy spicy notes to this risotto. The spice really helps bring everything together. Dried ancho chiles can be found in most major grocery stores or purchased online (I happen to love Bailey Farms’ ancho chiles; they are super soft). Tip: Over the years, I’ve found that dried chiles are often in the most random sections of the grocery store, so if you don’t immediately find them, just ask an employee.
- Rosemary: A sprig of rosemary adds a subtle earthiness.
- Vegetable stock: I love Better than BouillonA concentrated paste mixed with water to form a flavorful broth. I prefer bouillon over cartons of stock, because the paste can be stored in the fridge, has a long shelf-life, and is generally more fl..., including this vegetable stock. They have so much flavor, and you can keep the paste in the fridge, so you don’t have to take up extra space buying cartons of stock. But you can use whatever vegetable stock you feel like!
- Honeynut squash: Here, I’m calling for one small-to-medium-sized honeynut squash. Honeynut squash are small, so it’s the perfect amount for 2 servings.
- Chili oil: You can use your favorite chili oil to top the risotto, as long as it contains some sort of sesame oil or sesame seeds. The nuttiness from the sesame really helps balance everything nicely. In testing this recipe, I used Lee Kum Kee’s Chiu Chow Chili Oil (which has sesame oil and sesame seeds) and salsa macha (which is technically a salsa, as opposed to a chili oil, but it’s perfect for this, as it has sesame seeds and chiles!). Both added a nice heat and nutty flavor. A chili crisp would work as well!
What is honeynut squash?
Honeynut squash is a type of winter squash cultivated from butternut squash and buttercup squash. It’s actually a relatively new varietal, originally developed by Richard Robinson, a professor at Cornell in the ’80s. Honeynut squash is significantly smaller and sweeter than butternut squash. It’s truly so delicious, with a beautiful orange color and sweet flavor.
How to make farrotto
Farrotto is prepared similarly to risotto in that you simmer the grains in broth. But the advantage of using farro is that you don’t have to add small amounts of broth at a time and constantly stir the pot. As a result, Farro won’t get mushy or gummy; instead, it will stay tender and chewy.
In this recipe, I toast the farro grains in a pan, then add the squash puree and vegetable stock, and let the whole thing simmer until the grains are tender and the liquid has reduced. Of course, you will still want to stir every 5 to 10 minutes to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom or sides of the pan, but you don’t need to stir as often as risotto.
You can see the progression of cooking the farro in the images below:
And I have a video below that shows the whole cooking process to make things easier:
Let’s talk through this process so you can feel confident once you try it yourself!
- Roast the squash and garlic until caramelized and soft. Let cool slightly until you’re able to scoop the flesh out of the squash and squeeze the garlic out.
- Meanwhile, steep the ancho chile in hot vegetable stock.
- Puree the vegetables with an immersion blender or regular blender with the chile-vegetable stock and miso paste until smooth.
- Saute the onion until soft and translucent.
- Toast the farro grains.
- Add the liquids. Simmer the farro in the squash puree and additional vegetable stock until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Serve. Stir in a bit of butter and vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and serve the farro. Top with a bit of chili oil and parsley.
Tips and Tricks
- Add as much liquid as you need. If you end up running out of liquid before the farro is tender, add about 1/2 cup of additional liquid at a time as needed. If there’s too much liquid and the farro is already cooked, continue reducing until the liquid clings to the grains.
- Adjust the flavors as you’d like: This farotto has a mix of sweet, caramelized, spicy, and savory flavors. If you need a little bit more acidity, add a bit more vinegar. If you want more heat, add more chili oil. If you want a bit of creaminess, add a dollop of greek yogurt. Saltiness and creaminess? Add parmigiano-reggiano cheese.
Storage and Reheating Instructions
Store leftover farrotto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. I reheat my leftovers in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed skillet on the stove. I usually add a tablespoon of butter and 1/4 cup of water or stock just to loosen things up. Then I’ll reheat it gently over medium heat until warmed through, stirring occasionally.
You can, just note the risotto might be slightly less sweet. Because butternut squash is significantly larger than honeynut, you will likely only need about one-third to half of the roasted squash.
I highly recommend trying this version with the ancho, but yes you can definitely substitute! Instead of using an ancho chile, add in 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika.
Farro should taste slightly chewy and tender when cooked through. The best way I describe it is to take a bite of the farro; if it’s hard, it needs more time; if it feels like it’s not too hard, but it requires a lot of chewing, it needs more time; and if it tastes tender, with a slight bite, it’s done. It shouldn’t taste mushy or it’s overcooked.
Yes! The seeds are edible and make a great snack. I often scoop out the seeds, then soak them in a bowl of water for a couple hours to help separate them from the stringy fibers. Then, I’ll pat them dry and roast them with a bit of oil and spices (I like garam masala, brown sugar, paprika, and salt) at 325F/163C for 10 to 15 minutes until toasted and crispy! You can even top the farrotto with the spiced seeds.
No, because you’re making a farrotto that simmers for a while, anyway, you don’t need to pre-soak the farro.
This post is brought to you by Bob’s Red Mill. I received compensation in exchange for this collaboration. All opinions are my own. Thank you!
Did you try this recipe? I would love to hear your feedback! Be sure to rate the recipe and leave a comment below.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Farrotto (Farro Risotto with Roasted Honeynut Squash and Chili Oil) Recipe
- Immersion blender, a regular blender works, too
- 2.5-quart french oven, or a heavy-bottomed dutch oven or braiser
- 2/3 to 3/4 lb honeynut squash, small to medium-sized
- 1 head of garlic
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided; plus more for drizzling
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 dried ancho chile
- 1 quart vegetable broth*, divided
- 2 tablespoons white miso paste
- 1 small white onion, finely diced
- 3/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Organic Farro, or any semi-pearled farro
- 1 sprig rosemary**
- A pinch of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons chili oil, plus more if desired
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese or a dollop of greek yogurt, if you'd like additional creaminess
- Place a rack in the bottom-third of the oven and preheat to 425°F/218°C. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Prep the roasted vegetables: Using a knife, cut the honeynut squash in half lengthwise. Trim the ends of the squash, and scoop out the stringy fiber and seeds with a spoon. Transfer the squash to the baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle the squash with 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and season with salt and black pepper. Slice 1/4-inch off the top of the head of garlic to reveal the cloves. Drizzle the cloves with 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Wrap completely in foil and place on the baking sheet.
- Roast the vegetables: Place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the squash is browned. Flip the squash over, then bake for another 10 minutes, or until the squash is caramelized on both sides and very soft. Remove the squash from the oven, and continue roasting the garlic for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is very soft and caramelized (about 40 minutes total). Cool the squash and garlic until you can handle them with your hands.
- Rehydrate the chile: While the vegetables roast, prep the chile. Place the chile in 1 cup of broth in a large microwave-safe measuring cup. Heat in the microwave for 2 minutes, or until the broth is steaming. Remove from the microwave and cover for at least 15 minutes to steam.
- Make the squash-chile puree: Scoop the flesh from the squash and transfer to the measuring cup with the chile and broth (you are not discarding the chile, instead you'll be pureeing it with the squash); you should have about 1/2 cup cooked squash (3.7 ounces). Squeeze the garlic from the head and add to the measuring cup; I had about 1 tablespoon. Add the miso paste. Blend in an immersion blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can also use a regular blender to do this. If the vegetables are still hot, make sure to remove the center cap from the blender lid (this helps release steam). Cover the lid with a kitchen towel, then blend until smooth.
- Saute the onion: Set a small (2.5-quart) french oven over medium heat. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the onion until soft and golden-brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Toast the farro: Add the farro, and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. When toasted, the farro should smell nutty.
- Turn the heat off for a minute, then add the squash puree, 2 cups of broth, the sprig of rosemary, and a pinch of cinnamon to the pan. Season with salt and black pepper. Turning the heat off before adding the squash puree prevents it from splattering everywhere.
- Cook the farro: Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce and simmer, uncovered, for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the farro is tender, but still has a slightly chewy bite. The liquid should have reduced significantly and cling nicely to the sauce. Stir every 5 to 10 minutes to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom or sides of the pan. Farro should taste slightly chewy and tender when cooked through. The best way I describe it is to take a bite of the farro; if it’s hard, it needs more time. If it feels like it’s not too hard, but it requires a lot of chewing, it needs more time. If it tastes tender, with a slight bite, it’s done. It shouldn’t taste mushy, or it’s overcooked.If you end up running out of liquid before the farro is tender, add about 1/2 cup of additional liquid at a time as needed. If there’s too much liquid and the farro is already cooked, continue reducing until the liquid clings to the grains.
- Serve: Remove the woody rosemary stem. Stir in the vinegar and butter. Taste the farro and season with salt and pepper. Distribute amongst serving bowls and top with chili oil and parsley.This farotto has a mix of sweet, caramelized, spicy, and savory flavors. If you need a little bit more acidity, add a bit more vinegar. If you want more heat, add more chili oil. Want creaminess and tang? Add a dollop of greek yogurt. Want saltiness and creaminess? Add some parmigiano-reggiano cheese.