Minestra di farro della Garfagnana – Tuscan farro soup

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Farro is the most ancient of grains. Hailing from the Fertile Crescent, it was the grain of choice of locals and armies during the Roman Empire, and continued to be a source of nourishment for the Latin populations throughout the centuries. In Tuscany, and particularly in the valleys of the Garfagnana region, farro (Triticum Dicoccum) found the most ideal growing conditions, becoming in time a local staple and source of nourishment for the region and beyond.

The long-established custom of growing farro in Garfagnana gave way to a series of dishes that best represent this beautiful, mountainous region and its traditional cucina povera. One of them, and perhaps the most popular, is a hearty soup of farro, beans and potatoes, enriched with pancetta or lardo and finished off with some local olive oil. The recipe couldn’t be simpler (it just requires the foresight to soak the beans and the farro in advance). And although good Tuscan ingredients would produce the most authentic version of this soup, any quality spelt, white beans and oil you can get hold of will work just as fine.

Ingredients

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Imperial

  • 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 70g of pancetta, minced
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 600g of waxy potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 300g of farro, preferably from Garfagnana, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
  • 500g of dried cannellini beans, or other small white beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
  • fine sea salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
1
Heat the oil in a large pan set over a low-medium heat. Add the pancetta and fry until the fat is rendered and it's nice and crispy. Next, add the onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened (about 10 minutes)
2
Stir in the potatoes, beans and farro. Pour over 2l of water, set the heat to low, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the beans and farro are very tender and the soup is thick and creamy
3
Taste and season with salt and pepper, then remove from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and perhaps some crusty bread on the side
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