What I love about this dish is the use of a unique Italian ingredient. Farro is a Northern Italian whole grain that works beautifully with this elegant twist on macaroni and cheese. Farro can be difficult to find, and a bit pricey. The farro in this dish can be replaced with barley, but it's worth the money and the search to give this grain a try. I found it at Whole Foods, and cooked the farro the night before to save on preperation time. The combination of the breadcrumb crust, light and crunchy farro, smooth blend of cheeses, and mushroom flavor infused throughout the dish is incredible. After falling in love with this Italian grain, I did a little research on what exactly farro is, and why I've been missing out for so many years...
According to the New York Times, "It appears that farro, an ancient grain believed to have sustained the Roman legions, has finally made it to the New World."
Farro is described as, "Farro is not wheat, but a plant and grain all its own. A grain of farro looks and tastes somewhat like a lighter brown rice. It has a complex, nutty taste with undertones of oats and barley. But lacking the heaviness of many whole-wheat grains, farro tastes more elegant than earnest."
The New York Times goes on to compare farro to arborio rice, but without the mushiness. Interested in reading more about farro? Check out the link below, then make this Giada De Laurentis dish! If the New York Times is writing an article about this grain, it has to be good.
New York Times: Farro, Italy's Rustic Staple
Cook Time:1 hr
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups warm milk (I use 2% but I'm sure whole tastes better)
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
1 cup grated Gruyere
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups farro, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
For the sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 8 minutes. Do not let the sauce boil! Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
For the farro: In a bowl, add the cheeses and stir well. Remove 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture. This will be used later for the topping. In a big pot, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the farro, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the faro is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, if necessary. Add the farro, thyme, and sauce to the bowl with the cheese. Stir until combined and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake until the top is golden brown and forms a crust, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. No need to burn your tongue!
This recipe is adapted from Giada De Laurentis.