I first discovered farro when I was living in Italy and longed to incorporate something nutty and grainy into my pasta- and bread-loaded diet. With brown rice nowhere to be found, my only choice was the nubby grain, which I quickly learned to love. I've been eating it in grain bowls, as a simple side dish, or as a hearty salad ever since. Now comes this risotto, or I should say farroto.
Made with farro instead of the traditional rice, the result is a whole-grain version of one of my favorite dishes, which serves as a well-rounded meal with the addition of shrimp. It's earthy, with a nice chew that balances the creaminess, yet bright, thanks to fresh garlic, basil, and lemon juice.
A Whole-Grain Twist on Risotto
Since farro takes longer to cook than the short-grain rice usually used in risotto, it's par-cooked before the dish is assembled. The benefit here is you don't have to stand over the stove and stir endlessly like most risotto. The farro is practically finished when it gets tossed into the saucepan with the aromatics, so it's just a matter of simmering and stirring for no more than 10 minutes, while the broth is absorbed and the farro releases starch and becomes creamy. Shrimp gets tossed in at the very end and cooks in the mix in a matter of minutes, and the whole thing is finished with lots of chopped fresh basil and a touch of lemon juice for brightness and balance.
Wine and Dine! What to Drink
I encourage you to try a bottle of Vinho Verde with this farroto. The Portuguese wine is extra crisp and bright, with just the slightest bit of effervescence — a nice contrast to the hearty, whole-grain farro. Its high level of acidity is also a perfect match for seafood, so it works wonderfully with the shrimp. Another bonus? It's quite low in alcohol compared to many white wines. A bottle is usually 10 to 11% ABV, which makes it a nice, easy wine to drink with dinner.
3 Bottles of Vino Verde Under $15
Garlic Basil Shrimp Farrotto
2 cups farro
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, heated to a simmer
1 1/2 pounds uncooked peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Place the farro in a large saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the farro is tender but still firm to the bite, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.
Heat the oil in the same saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Stir in the farro, along with a big pinch of salt and a few generous grinds of pepper.
Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir until it has all evaporated, about 1 minute.
Add a ladleful of the hot broth and simmer, stirring constantly, until the farro has absorbed almost all of the broth. Continue adding ladlefuls of the broth and stirring until it's absorbed, until the farro is creamy, 8 to 10 minutes total. You should have about 1/2 cup or more of hot broth remaining at this point.
Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add them to the pan. Continue to stir until the shrimp is opaque, 2 to 3 minutes, adding more broth as needed to keep the farrotto creamy and not dried out (you might not use all of the remaining stock). Remove from the heat and stir in the basil, butter, and lemon juice. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.