Sweet roasted squash, savory roasted garlic, and spiced ancho chile form the base of this nutty farrotto recipe with a creamy texture and rich taste. Farrotto, or farro risotto, is a cozy bowl of goodness perfect for ushering in fall. The squash puree provides so much creaminess, and a topping of chili oil adds another dimension of flavor. Plus, it's totally vegan and vegetarian-friendly!
Have you ever tried farrotto before? Farotto is a preparation of cooking farro like traditional risotto; that is, you slow-cook the farro in broth until tender and creamy. Compared to arborio rice or carnaroli rice (typical grain varieties used in risotto), farro is a whole grain with a nutty, chewy texture that lends well to earthy flavors.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Honeynut squash and garlic roast until soft and caramelized. Then, I blend them with vegetable stock, miso paste, and ancho chile, yielding a gorgeous burnt orange puree.
- The farro cooks in the flavorful liquid until tender, as the liquid thickens and clings to the chewy grains. It's sweet, smoky, and deliciously savory.
Sometimes, I'll even top it with crispy pan-fried oyster mushrooms - so good! And you know I love smoky flavors! I've already got this smoky chickpea and farro soup, chipotle breakfast beans, and this chili for two recipe on the blog.
The History of Farrotto
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 grown 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 1990s. 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 note its relatively new status in food culture.
How to Purchase 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.
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, while 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.
- Dried ancho chile: 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.
- Vegetable broth: I love Better than Bouillon, especially their Vegetable Bouillon. 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.
- Honeynut squash: Honeynut squash is a type of winter squash cultivated from butternut squash and buttercup 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. I recommend either Lee Kum Kee's Chiu Chow Chili Oil, Chili Crisp, or Salsa Macha.
For a full list of ingredients and quantities, refer to the recipe card.
How to Make Farrotto
Step 1 - 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.
Step 2 - Meanwhile, steep the ancho chile in hot vegetable stock.
Step 3 - Puree the vegetables with the chile-vegetable stock and miso paste until smooth.
Step 4 - Saute the onion in olive oil until soft and translucent, and toast the farro grains.
Step 5 - Add the liquids: Bring the farro to a boil with the squash puree and additional vegetable stock.
Step 6 - Simmer: Cook until tender, about 30 - 40 minutes. Of course, you will still want to stir every 5 - 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.
Step 7 - Finish cooking: After cooking, the farro will be tender, chewy, and al dente.
Step 8 - 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 ½ 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 or parmesan cheese.
Store leftover farrotto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Reheating: I reheat my leftovers in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed skillet on the stove. I usually add a tablespoon of butter and ¼ 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 ½ 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 325°F/163°C for 10 - 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.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Spicy Farrotto (Farro Risotto) with Squash
- 1 (⅔ - ¾) pound honeynut squash, small to medium-sized
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided | plus more for drizzling
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 head garlic
- 1 dried ancho chile
- 1 quart vegetable broth*, divided
- 2 tablespoons white miso paste
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- ¾ cup semi-pearled farro
- 1 sprig rosemary
- A pinch ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons chili oil, such as Lee Kum Kee Chiu Chow Chili Oil or Chili Crisp or salsa macha
- ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- A dollop of greek yogurt, parmesan, or vegan yogurt, for 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, and drizzle with 1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and season with salt and black pepper. Slice ¼-inch off the top of the head of garlic to reveal the cloves. Drizzle the cloves with 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil. Wrap completely in foil and place on the baking sheet.1 (⅔ - ¾) pound honeynut squash, 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, Salt and black pepper, 1 head garlic
- 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 - 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.1 dried ancho chile, 1 quart vegetable broth*
- 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 ½ cup cooked squash (3.7 ounces). Squeeze out the garlic cloves from their 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. Note: 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.2 tablespoons white miso paste
- 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 - 10 minutes.1 small onion
- Toast the farro: Add the farro, and toast for 1 - 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until nutty.¾ cup semi-pearled farro
- Turn the heat off for a minute, then add the squash puree, 2 more cups of broth, the sprig of rosemary, and a pinch of cinnamon to the pan. Season with salt and black pepper. Note: Turning the heat off before adding the squash puree prevents it from splattering everywhere.1 sprig rosemary, A pinch ground cinnamon
- Cook the farro: Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce and simmer, uncovered, for 35 - 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 - 10 minutes to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom or sides of the pan. Note: Farro should taste slightly chewy and tender when cooked through. 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 ½ 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.Note: 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, cheese, or vegan yogurt.1 teaspoon sherry vinegar, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons chili oil, ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, A dollop of greek yogurt, parmesan, or vegan yogurt