If you need more whole grains in your life, farro is a good place to start. This ancient grain (it was a dietary staple of ancient Romans) packs a lot of flavor, plus a good dose of fiber and protein. Once you have the basic cooking part down, farro is an easy ingredient to serve a zillion different ways—the only catch is choosing the right kind. Semi-perlato (semi-pearled) farro has had some of the bran removed, and perlato (pearled) farro has had even more bran removed. They cook in 15 and 25 minutes respectively. The bran is fully intact in true whole grain farro, which needs to be soaked for 24 hours before cooking for 30 to 40 minutes. Most recipes call for semi-perlato. When it doubt, read the cooking directions on the package—the instructions should tell you whether the farro needs to be soaked or can be cooked right away.
1. Suvir Saran’s Farro and Mushroom Burgers
When you tire of the same old soup, salad, risotto routine with farro, this burger will blow the doors off. We’re using the term “healthy” loosely here, for a recipe with a fair dose of butter and cheese, but when you’re loading up on nutritious farro instead of fatty ground beef, it’s a fair label. Get the recipe.
2. Butternut Squash, Kale, and Farro Soup
Save this one for a chilly fall stay-at-home Saturday dinner. Hearty and wholesome, it takes some time to prepare but the payoff in flavor is worth every step. Get our Butternut Squash, Kale, and Farro Soup recipe.
3. Charlie Bird’s Farro Salad
Once you’ve eaten farro prepared this way—simmered in a seasoned apple cider “stock”—it will change the way you cook any robust, chewy grain (think: barley). The grains are infused with flavor and good enough to eat solo, but let’s be honest: the top-shelf olive oil and Parmesan are the real reason you’ll make this healthy salad over and over again. Get the recipe.
4. Balsamic Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Grilled Veggies, and Kale
Think of this as your post-cookout, refrigerator clean-out “recipe”—a way to use up all of the leftover grilled veggies no one ate because the cheeseburgers were so good. Tossed with an outstanding, herb-packed vinaigrette, this weekday lunch salad makes up for the second cheeseburger. Get the recipe.
5. Seared Scallops with Lemony Farro and Arugula Salad
Don’t worry if you can’t find great scallops—this punchy, bright farro and arugula salad will be your new go-to “bed” for whatever light seafood or fish you’re serving. Just remember to use semi-pearled farro, which does not require an overnight soak. Get our Seared Scallops with Lemony Farro and Arugula Salad recipe.
6. Black Bean Farro with Avocado
Think of this as a healthy, packed-with-flavor riff on regular rice and beans. The recipe calls for pre-cooked farro, which cuts the prep time to practically nil and makes this an easy weeknight meal to toss together. Pre-cooked farro will last up to five days in the refrigerator. Get the recipe.
7. Farro Salad with Peas, Asparagus and Feta
When you’re charged with bringing a vegetarian side dish to a potluck-style meal or picnic, this is the whole grain salad that will make you a legend. It’s ridiculously easy to prepare – simmering the farro is the most labor-intensive part – and it delivers on all levels: a wallop of flavor from the red onion, Sherry vinegar and dill, and a great texture (crunchy, chewy, cheesy). Get the recipe.
8. One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes
Farro is hard to overcook—the grains really hold their chewy, piece-y texture—but it is very easy to undercook and that toothsome-ness can come across as more “cattle feed” than al dente. Regardless of the recipe, always pay close attention to the cooking instructions on the bag. Because there are several varieties and the labeling is inconsistent, the packaged instructions will reveal whether the farro is pearled, semi-pearled or whole grain. Get the recipe.
9. Curried Farro Salad
If the word “bland” comes to mind whenever you think of whole grain salads, this amped-up farro salad will change that frame of mind. If you make the farro ahead of time (cooked farro keeps up to five days in the refrigerator) and use a store-bought rotisserie chicken (or make it all-veggie), you can rip this meal out in about 20 minutes. Allowing farro and seasonings to rest a few hours, or even overnight, enriches the flavor even more. Get the recipe.
10. Coconut Farro Porridge with Mango
Don’t let the word “porridge” dissuade you. This exotic spin on plain ol’ oatmeal will make getting out of bed something you look forward to. Get our Coconut Farro Porridge with Mango recipe.
Colleen Rush is a food and travel writer who eats, drinks, cooks, and writes mostly in New Orleans, but also … everywhere else. She is the author of “The Mere Mortal’s Guide to Fine Dining” (Broadway Books, 2006), and coauthor of “Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons” (Running Press, 2009) and the upcoming “Low & Slow 2: The Art of Barbecue, Smoke Roasting, and Basic Curing” (Running Press, 2015). Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.