Farro with Basil and Walnut Pesto

Farro hasn’t made it into my repertoire until recently.  I haven’t be able to get it out of my mind since trying it for the first time at Almond over a year ago and have bookmarked at least a dozen farro recipes by now.  This is the first one I am trying and I’m loving it already!  Farro will definitely be making appearances again in cooler months in risotto-like dishes and soups, but for now, they are great if you want something light and refreshing.  I’m a grain enthusiast, so I love how it has a subtly nutty, chewy bite.

I turned the dish into a salad the following day by tossing some leftover farro with roasted red peppers and mushrooms.  You can even eliminate the prosciutto and serve it as a side dish to a meat course.  Though I’d never eliminate prosciutto from anything, and I can eat a pound of it as a meat course any day.

The pesto dressing is another highlight of the dish.  Nothing beats a good homemade pesto, made with the freshest basil leaves you can find.  I love the smell of fresh basil and I often catch myself sniffing an aromatic bunch.  I like the pesto a bit coarse in this recipe because the crunch from the walnuts goes really well with the hearty texture and flavor of the farro.  You can also process the pesto into a finer paste, which can be a wonderful dressing for a roasted veggies pasta salad, on grilled chicken breasts, and even as a sandwich spread.

Farro with Basil Walnut Pesto
(serves 4; makes about 1 ½ cup of pesto)

1/2 lb farro
2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
1/4 cup walnuts
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 lb of Prosciutto di Parma or di San Danielle, crudo, thinly sliced

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the farro and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the farro, covered, until tender, for about 25 minutes. Drain farro and set aside in a large bowl.

Combine basil and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cheese, and pulse again until the ingredients become a coarse mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss the warm farro with the coarse pesto. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top the farro with few slices of Prosciutto di Parma and cheese shavings and serve.

*Many pesto recipes call for garlic cloves.  Personally, I don’t like the aftertaste of raw garlic, but if you like it, two cloves of garlic should do just fine in this recipe.

* If you don’t like walnuts, you can use pine nuts, almonds, or pistachios.

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