This Sausage and Farro Parmesan is hearty and delicious, cooked in a flavourful tomato sauce and topped with cheese and bread crumbs.
Happy weekend! I saved this one for the weekend, because I think it's pretty much perfect weekend eating and cooking. It does need a little time to simmer away (about 2 hours), but you are home to enjoy the wonderful smells as it cooks away. And when dinner rolls around, it's just a simple pop under the broiler to melt the cheese.
You can cook this one mostly in to a slow cooker and let it do the simmering for you, or just let it simmer on the stovetop or pop into the oven.
This one is also perfect hearty comfort food, so you'll want to put this one on the menu soon, while it's still
hearty comfort food season.
If you're new to farro, here's a bit of a primer ...
What is farro?
Farro is a nutty and pleasingly chewy grain. Farro is high in fibre, so it not only tastes great, it's good for you too. Farro is a wheat, so it is not gluten free.
Farro comes in several forms, both in its origin and in how it is processed after harvesting. Whole grain farro is the pure grain. While it is the most nutritious, it is difficult to cook with without pre-soaking. For cooking, look for pearled (perlato) or semi-pearled (semi-perlato) which have some or all of the outer layers removed. Pearled farro takes the least time to cook, while semi-pearled needs a bit longer in the pot. Semi-pearled is a nice compromise choice for a balance between nutritious and delicious.
Farro is easily found in grocery stores these days or if you have access to an Italian grocer, look for the great imported Italian farro there.
What to do with farro?
Use farro anywhere you might use other grains, such as barley or wheatberries. You can easily add the pearled or semi-pearled farro to soups or stews and allow to cook along with your dish until tender (remember the pearled will take less time than the semi-pearled, so chose according to the time your dish will be cooking.) Or cook up some farro separately and add it to hot or cold salads for added fibre and great, nutty flavour and chewiness.
One of my favourite ways to enjoy farro is to add it to summer dinner salads for a little added heartiness. Simply cook the farro ahead and serve at room temperature together with grilled summer vegetables and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.
Cook's Notes for Sausage and Farro Parmesan
While this dish has meat in it and is perfectly fine as a main, it also works well as a side, as it is more grain, than meat. It would be lovely as a side for simple grilled meat or fish. As a main, serve with a lovely salad for a great meal.
If you don't have or want to use a slow cooker, start the recipe with a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven instead of a skillet, then simply cover your pot and simmer on the stove-top or pop into a 350F oven to cook away. Check every 30 minutes or so, to stir and check for doneness.
You can substitute regular dried breadcrumbs for the panko, if you prefer.
I used regular mozzarella here, but you can also use fresh mozzarella, if you like.
A cast-iron skillet is a great for the final, broiling of this dish or if you have smaller cast-iron skillets or rounds, make individual ones.
Sausage and Farro Parmesan
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion (diced)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 lb hot or sweet Italian sausage (removed from casings)
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 Tbsp fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried oregano leaves)
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (or to taste)
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (fire-roasted if you can get them)
- 2 green onions (thinly sliced)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 cup panko
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp minced fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried oregano leaves)
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 6 oz mozzarella (thinly sliced)
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and season with a bit of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up, until cooked through and starting to brown, 7-8 minutes. Add the 2 cloves of minced garlic, the oregano, crushed red pepper and the fennel seeds. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the vinegar.
- For slow cooker: Spoon mixture into a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the farro, crushed tomatoes and water. Season with salt and pepper, the cover and cook on high until the farro is tender, about 2 - 2 1/2 hours. Stir in the green onions.
- Alternately, you can simmer this one covered in a Dutch oven on the stove-top or in a 350F oven, checking every 30 minutes or so to stir and check farro for doneness.
- For the topping: heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the panko and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the parsley, lemon zest, fresh oregano and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is tender, 1 minute. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a plate to cool and set aside.
- When farro mixture is cooked, spoon into an oven-safe baking dish (or smaller, individual baking dishes). Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and top with mozzarella slices. Place under your oven broiler until the cheese is melted and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Let stand a few minutes, then sprinkle with panko to serve.
Adapted from a Food and Wine recipe