Depending on where you live, winter is the time of root vegetables and squash. Baking them with nutty farro is a hardy and heartwarming way to enjoy them.
If you aren’t familiar with farro, it is an “ancient grain”, a type of wheat, very nutty and somewhat chewy in nature. It is boiled in water (usually 1-part farrow to 2.5-parts water, plus a little salt). Depending on the type and how much it has been processed (“pearled”, removing part of its husk) will determine its cooking time. It’s a very hands-off process, much like rice, so have no fear if you’ve never made it. It’s very forgiving. Just follow the package instructions and you’ll be fine.
If I’m making a single winter or root vegetable, I often give them a little splash of olive oil and salt and roast them at a high temperature. But for this recipe, since I’m using three vegetables and combining it with a grain, I prefer to treat it like a casserole – all together and baked in a dish. And what the heck – let’s add a little gratin (breadcrumbs and cheese) to dress it up a little.
Can you swap in and out other winter and root vegetables? Sure! The trick is to think through baking times and dice-sizes. If all vegetables cook at the same time, and are the same size, you’ll be good to go.
NOTE: Once baked, this also makes a great soup. Just add a couple of large scoops to a bowl of hot broth.
Winter Veggie Bake with Farro
- 1 1/2 cups dry farro
- 2 heaping cups diced butternut or other squash (1/2-inch – 3/4-inch dice)
- 2 heaping cups diced waxy potatoes (skins on is fine if they’re well-scrubbed) (1/2-inch – 3/4-inch dice)
- 2 fennel bulbs, cored and diced (1/2-inch – 3/4-inch dice)
- 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt), plus more for farro (according to package instructions)
- 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper (optional)
- 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup butter diced into small cubes, plus extra for greasing baking pan
- Pre-heat oven to 375F/190C with rack in the upper third of the oven
- In a saucepan on the stovetop, prepare farro according to package instructions. You made need to drain any excess water. Set aside once cooked
- While farro is cooking, wash, dry, and dice all vegetables 1/2-inch – 3/4-inch. Place in large mixing bowl
- Add cooked farro and chicken or vegetable stock to mixing bowl and mix until thoroughly combined
- Butter a 13-inch X 9-inch (33 x 23 CM) baking dish. Add the vegetable/farro mixture to the baking dish and lightly pat down and level. Place in the pre-heated oven covered with aluminum foil for 60 minutes
- While the dish is baking, combine cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Cube butter in small pieces
- After 60 minutes, remove baking dish from oven and remove the foil (leave the oven on), and carefully and evenly add the cheese/breadcrumb mixture over the top of the baking dish and then distribute the butter cubes. Remembering to use potholders, return the baking dish to the oven – this time uncovered – for another 20 minutes or until the breadcrumbs and cheese are golden brown
- Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving