by Henry Gould – April 29th, 2020
If you’re one of those people who is now forced to be isolated from home, living in the “quarantine zone” is all about balance.
Yes, you had a martini with lunch (on a Monday) but you did a Yard Zoom Workout in the morning! OK, you’ve had sourdough with every meal since your baking experiments started, but kneading the dough is hard! Look at these triceps!
This recipe for Farro Risotto w/ Pancetta, Arugula & Fontina Cheese is one of those “balance” meals. Sure, risotto isn’t traditionally something you associate with healthy living, but this one subs out rice for nutritious Farro, an ancient wheat grain* native to Italy that is very high in protein, fiber and other essential nutrients. You can find farro in Italian grocery stores (Bosa foods has it), speciality foods stores, or online.
Also, since many of us have way too much free time on our hands these days, go the extra mile and make your own chicken stock to cook the risotto in. Just boil some chicken bones and vegetables for 2-3 hours, then strain. It’s very easy, and if you make a lot you can freeze it in reusable containers for future cooking projects.
*since farro is part of the wheat family, it does contain gluten, so be advised if you have a Celiac allergy
Farro Risotto w/ Pancetta, Arugula, & Fontina Cheese
- 1 cup Farro
- 1 white onion, chopped finely
- 50g pancetta, chopped finely
- 2 handfuls fresh Arugula, washed
- 3-4 cups chicken stock
- 2 handfuls of Fontina cheese, cut into small cubes
- Sea salt
- Dry white wine
Put the chicken stock in a small pot and bring to a low simmer. Not boiling, just to keep warm.
In a larger pot over medium heat, at a knob of butter and slowly sweat the onions. You don’t want to brown or caramalize the onions, just softly cook. Add the pancetta and continue cooking for 5 minutes until the fat has rendered.
Turn the heat up slightly, then add the farro and stir around to coat each grain in the oil. Allow to cook for another minute to slightly toast the farro. Then, add a generous wine glass of white wine, just enough to coat all the farro grains but not drown them. Stir, stir, stir and allow all the wine to evaporate.
Next, add a ladle of chicken stock and season with some sea salt. Keep stirring. With risotto, it should never have so much liquid it’s completely swamped, but not too little that the grains scorch to the bottom of the pot.
Keep stirring and adding spoonfuls of chicken stock as it evaporates. After 10 minutes, tastes a few farro grains. They will probably still taste hard and uncooked, but it lets you get a gauge of how it’s progressing, as well as the seasoning. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to season with salt, so add small amount as you go.
Keep stirring, adding stock when needed, stirring, then tasting. Once the farro is just about cooked (firm enough to hold it’s texture, but soft and pleasant to eat), turn the heat off. Add the arugula, cheese and a knob of butter and start really whipping the risotto to melt the cheese and wilt the greens. Stir for at least a minute, maybe two. You want to allow all the starch and cheese to emulsify and get really creamy.
Consistency with risotto is crucial! It should definitely not be stiff and thick, but oozing. If it’s too thick, add a little more stock or water, but be careful as you can’t remove liquid at this stage.
Have a quick taste, and season with more salt if needed. Spoon the risotto only the middle of a plate, and if you want to be really geeky, tap the bottom of the plate to help the risotto flatten out on the plate. Add a few cracks of black pepper and serve.