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Jim Dixon’s DIY Dish: Farro all’Uccelletto


Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business, Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

Farro all’Uccelletto

In Italian all’uccelletto means “in the style of little birds,” and it’s most often stuck onto a dish of beans in tomato sauce called fagioli all’uccelletto. Some people argue that sage must be also involved, but a lot of old recipes don’t mention it. Emmer farro is an ancient wheat that is still grown in northern Italy, but it’s typically pearled to remove the outer husk. If a recipe says the farro will cook it 15 minutes, that’s using what the Italians call farro perlato or pearled. Emmer farro grows here in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s almost always whole grain with the husk intact. You get more nutrients, but the grain takes longer to cook.

1 cup emmer farro*

4 cups water

½ medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 celery stalk, chopped (about ½ cup)

1 small carrot, chopped (about ½ cup)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

6-8 leaves fresh sage or ½ teaspoon dried sage, optional

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 ½ cups canned crushed tomatoes*

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for serving, optional

*Whole grain farro, not the not pearled or semi pearled imported farro. Use one 14 oz can or half of a 28 oz can; whole tomatoes are fine, but crush them with your hands before using.

Combine the farro and water in a 3-4 quart pot, stir in the salt, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to simmer, and cook for at least 45 minutes. The farro should be tender, but it’ll still have a little chewy resistance. Pour off any excess liquid.

While the farro simmers, cook the onion, carrot, and celery stalks in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Add the sage, if using, and the garlic. Let that cook for another minute or two, then stir in the tomatoes. Reduce the heat and simmer for another 20 minutes or until the carrots, which take the longest to cook, are tender.

Add the cooked farro and simmer everything together for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Taste and add salt, if needed, then stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I like this Italian-style, with grated Parmigiano on top.

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