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Posted on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 9:48 a.m.

Garfagnana Farro Soup is a hearty, warming dish

By Peggy Lampman


Garfagnana Farro Soup

Peggy Lampman | Contributor

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A couple of weeks ago I described, in a tiny chestnut shell, my recent trip to visit a friend in Lucca, Italy. I spoke of our hike north of Lucca in the Garfagnana, where the landscape was dotted with chestnut hunters, and made a pasta dish utilizing fresh Michigan chestnuts when I arrived home. While at the Garfagnana park service station, I also noticed bags of farro — the locally cultivated spelt — alongside bags of chestnut purées and pastas.

exploring the garfagnana.jpg

The Tuscan Garfagnana region.

The cooking in this mountain region is no-nonsense sturdy fare using indigenous ingredients, and I savored a soup made of farro, which I tried to recreate in this recipe. Soups such as this, which are often accompanied by local salami, dark bread and vegetables preserved in oil, find a place to ward off the chill at many a long, wooden hilltop table in this lovely Tuscan area.

I've written about farro a great deal and am happy it's readily found in Ann Arbor stores. In Tuscany, this whole grain is so ubiquitous, I even purchased a bag at a gas station! Kale and sage are still thriving in winter gardens, ingredients quite lovely in this hearty winter soup.

Past farro posts of mine have included Lemony Farro Risotto with Currants, Pine Nuts and Spinach, Corn and Tomato Farrosotto, Italian Farro with Ground Beef, Fennel and Peas, and Broccoli and Farro Salad with Feta.

Yield: 6 servings
Bean Soak Time: 24 hours to soak beans
Active Time: 30 minutes
Simmer Time: At least an hour


1 cup dry white beans
2-3 pieces thick cut bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/3-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup uncooked farro
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice (imported Italian preferred)
6 cups stock or water, plus more as necessary
6 cups stemmed and torn kale, washed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Red pepper flakes
Freshly grated hard sheep’s milk cheese, such as Pecorino


1. Soak beans in water to cover by 2-inches for 24 hours.
2. Place bacon or pancetta in a large, heavy-bottomed pan or Dutch oven over medium heat; fry until much of the fat is rendered, about six minutes. Stir in onion, celery and carrots. Cook until vegetables are softened, 5 to 10 minutes, then stir in garlic, farro, soaked beans, tomatoes and stock.
3. Bring to a boil, then adjust heat to medium. Cook thirty minutes and add kale. Continue cooking until farro and beans are tender, at least an additional 30 minutes, adding stock or water as necessary if mixture becomes too thick. Stir in sage, then cook another 5 minutes. Add kosher salt, if necessary, and red pepper flakes to taste, and serve garnished with grated cheese.

Peggy Lampman is a real-time food writer and photographer posting daily feeds on her website and in the Food & Grocery section of You may also e-mail her at



Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 2:40 a.m.

Meijer has farro [on sale this week] , and Plum Market has it as well. I have prepared it several times since I read about it on Peggy's "Food Feed" and found it very forgiving, bulletproof, and delicious, well worth the effort to track it down.

Peggy Lampman

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 11:50 p.m.

Great tip, Borbsi! Glad to know so many places have it in town.

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

While visiting a friend in Barga, just north of Lucca, we picked up a bag of faro. I think my cousin has used it up, but just in case, I sent this along to her. Great area of Tuscany, great food. Almost every restaurant has its specialty. I loved the pasta with wild boar sauce at the Barracuda just north of Barga. Can you get faro in thie Ann Arbor area?

Peggy Lampman

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

I heard about that wild boar dish! Lucky you! You can get farro, I'm pretty sure, at a lot of local stores. I purchased a bag recently from Hillers (Roland semi-pearled from Umbria) and the same type several months ago at the Produce Station. I think last year I bought it from Arbor Farms and I believe I've seen it at Sparrow Market. Would assume Whole Foods and Busch's carried it as well. Try one of those risotto recipes - I like the one w/ground beef at this time of the year. That recipe was inspired by the roland recipe on the bag. Try it with ground boar - I'll bet Sparrow Meats can get you some! Have fun!