Today we find ourselves in a post-holiday, full moon, Friday the 13th sort of funk. It’s cold here in New England. Not bitter, brutal cold like it was at the beginning of the week, but my tank tops and flip flops are safely tucked away. I am trying to get back into the swing of things, getting the house back in order and realizing that once again this year, I missed a couple of Christmas decorations that need to be put away. I am hanging on to those resolutions by a very, very fine thread and the dream of a Caribbean beach with a tropical drink in hand is on an infinite loop in my brain.
Let’s face it. It’s comfort food season. I don’t mean bury your face in a bag of chips because you didn’t get that promotion or single-handedly polishing off a pint of Ben and Jerry’s because Mr. Right (or Mr. Right Now) hasn’t called in three days. I mean warm, nourishing, stick to your ribs kind of comfort food. Food that has to simmer all day and that fills the house with the glorious aroma of pork fat and onions sizzling in olive oil. Food that goes perfectly with a big glass of red wine and a crusty loaf of bread.
I am talking about Zuppa di Farro – Farro Soup. Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know that I am a huge fan of farro. I love it in the summer, tossed in a salad with tomatoes and arugula or grilled vegetables. But zuppa di farro puts me right over the edge. A hot steaming bowl of it topped with shaved parmesan is exactly what a mid-winter lunch should be.
I woke up this morning and started rummaging through my pantry. I knew that a cold turkey sandwich was never going to do for lunch. I found 1/2 a bag of farro and some tomatoes. This is the start of something good. I left the farro soaking (an important step which is the most time-consuming part of the recipe) and headed to the market for three simple ingredients: beef broth, pancetta and an onion. Everything else could be found in the spice cabinet or the fridge (including the ever-present chunk o’ parm).
Farro soup is rich and creamy without the presence of cream. It’s thickened by pureeing a couple of cups of the soup and returning it to the pot. It’s versatile – you can add spinach, kale, carrots, celery, beans. There are many variations but the link below is a very traditional Umbrian style version which includes pancetta).
I’d actually like to be in Umbria as opposed to a tropical beach. And as I tucked into my bowl of soup, I was immediately transported back there. Such is the power of good traditional Italian cooking. Buon appetito!
If this recipe has tempted you to learn more about the magnificent region of Umbria, Italy’s Green Heart, check out our virtual tour: