The day I watched Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills processing farro on A Chef’s Life, I became obsessed with locally sourced and heirloom grains. The only heirloom farro grown in America comes from Anson Mills. You can find farro at your local grocery store or Trader Joes, but if you want to explore heirloom grains, place an order from Anson Mills. Try some new things! Cornmeal, grits, flour, Carolina gold rice, red peas… you just cannot go wrong. They also have a number of recipes and tips on their website for cooking with these products. Read through these recipes before you start experimenting. The products from Anson Mills are not your typical grocery store grains/rice. These are the real deal. These are the grains people were eating 200 years ago. So they may take a little longer to cook, they may require overnight soaking. But it is worth every bit of effort. These are freshly stone ground grains so they must also be stored in the freezer as well. It is incredibly sad how far the quality of our flours, grains, rice has fallen in the US for the sake of profits and efficiency. The only way to fix it is to support the pioneers like Glenn Roberts, who has basically brought back once lost heirloom varieties of grits, rice, and farro, just to name a few.
The farro here takes the place of pasta which makes this dish much healthier, in my opinion. One serving of farro has upwards of 7 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. Not to mention it contains a number of other vitamins – thiamine, iron, niacin, zinc. It is also 100% whole grain (if you believe in the whole grain voodoo). Farro is much more complex than your traditional white pastas, it does have carbs but they burn slower. This meal will stick with you and keeps extremely well in the fridge or freezer for future lunches. When prepping lunches, I put this in containers with lima beans or green beans. This recipe actually makes a lot and I froze an entire 28 oz container with cheese sprinkled on top, ready to go for a last minute meal.
I am usually kind of weary of crock pots. But this recipe is perfect for the slow cookers. The farro can withstand long cook times and it will still be fabulous. I would still keep a close eye on it though and avoid over cooking it. It is super convenient to precook your sausage and onions, keep them in the fridge, and then throw all of the ingredients in the crockpot when you get home from work. Then you can just relax on the couch with a glass of wine while dinner cooks itself! I would serve this with a light salad and some crusty bread.
I would definitely serve this with red wine. I think Sangiovese would be perfect but a cabernet would also work well. If you want to splurge a little, grab a bottle of this for around $30 – Casisano Colombia Brunello de Montalcino. This is a lovely example of Sangiovese, on the more rustic side. It comes from very old vines and has strong notes of tea and leather. After you finish this bottle… try this $4 Sangiovese from Trader Joe – Grifone. This wine is on the fruitier side, lots of raspberries but a shockingly smooth finish for the price. Its drinkable with or without food and pairs excellently with the red sauce in this Farro and Sausage Parmigiano. This Griffon Sangiovese is arguably one of the best values at Trader Joe. This wine is an excellent example of tuscan wines and is significantly more delicious than most of the cheap Italian wines at your local grocery store.
Farro and Sausage Parmigiano
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds hot Italian sausage (casings removed)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 cup wine (white or red will do)
1 1/2 cups farro
28 ounce can crushed fire roasted san marzano tomatoes (if you don’t have crushed on hand, just blend up the whole ones in a food processor or blender)
1/2 cup panko
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
6 ounces grated mozzarella
In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, ~5 minutes. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage fully, ~10 minutes.
Add the garlic, dried oregano, crushed red pepper, crushed fennel seeds, and cook for 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant. Stir in the wine to deglaze the pan. Allow it to evaporate for 2-3 minutes.
Scrape all of this into a slow cooker. Stir in the tomatoes and farro. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The farro should be tender but still have some firmness when you bite into it.
Pour the contents of the slow cooker into a 3 quart dish. Sprinkle with panko, parmesan and mozzarella and serve. If the cheese is not melting enough just sitting on the counter, bake in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Food and Wine magazine.