A Fondness For Farro Torta
Is it a frittata? Or a quiche?
It’s a hybrid that is definitely authentic.
After all, “Farro Torta” comes from the new cookbook, “Autentico: Cooking Italian, the Authentic Way” (St. Martin’s), of which I received a review copy.
It’s by Rolando Beramendi, founder of Italian fine food importer Manicaretti, who splits his time between San Francisco, New York and Florence. His expertise on all things Italian has been lauded by the likes of Ina Garten, Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, and Nancy Silverton.
As he writes in the intro of the book: “I cook food in its most authentic form. I cook to break preconceived notions of what food should be — no overcrowded plates, no recipes with too many disparate ingredients, no out-of-season ingredients, no need for a lot of equipment. I make no-fuss food for my guests and myself that nourishes both hearts and our stomachs.”
The 120 recipes epitomize that. They all have a welcome rusticity and ease, from “Almond and Tomato Pesto,” “Spaghetti with Egg, Pecorino, Romano, and Guanciale” and “Risotto with Radicchio” to “A Big Meal Meatloaf,” “Squid with Tomatoes, Bitter Greens, and Red Wine,” and “Pistachio Gelato with Olive Oil and Fleur de Sel.”
“Farro Torta” is egg-y like a frittata, but also creamy, cheesy and sort of custardy like a crust-less quiche.
The base is plenty of eggs, ricotta, Parmigiano, fresh herbs, veggies, and the unexpected addition of cooked farro. The ancient grain is cooked, then stirred into the batter before baking.
What it does is impart lovely nutty flavor and wonderful hidden bits of chewiness throughout this moist, flavorful torta.
The original recipe calls for adding zucchini to the batter. But since winter isn’t the ideal season for it, I used rainbow Swiss chard instead, sauteing the cut-up stems a little longer than the leaves to get them tender. The recipe also called for basil, but I went with chives, as Baramendi recommended when the summer herb isn’t readily available or at its best.
That’s the beauty of this recipe. It takes easily adaptation. Instead of zucchini or Swiss chard, you could use kale, mushrooms or yellow onions, plus any manner of favorite herbs.
This would be ideal for a brunch or a potluck. You can also serve small wedges as an appetizer or larger slices with salad and crusty bread for lunch or dinner. Or you can make it even more substantial by spooning over it a meaty ragu sauce.
It’s delicious. It’s versatile. It’s easy. And it’s an authentic taste of Italy.
What more reason could you need to fill your tummy with it?
Meet Rolando Beramendi: In honor of his new cookbook, he’ll be appearing at events at Draeger’s in San Mateo and Blackhawk; Zuni Cafe in San Francisco; and Cotogna in San Francisco. Find info on all of his appearances here.
(Serves 8 to 12)
For the farro:
1 cup farro
Mild extra-virgin olive oil
For the torta:
Unsalted butter, for the pan
3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more to finish
2 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced into 1/4-inch rounds OR 1 small bunch Swiss chard, stems sliced into 1/4-inch pieces and leaves cut into long, thin strips
6 large eggs, beaten
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn OR a generous bunch of chives, minced
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, torn
Sea salt and crushed black peppercorns
To cook the farro: Put the 1 cup uncooked farro in a small bowl, cover with cold water, and set aside to soak for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the water, rinse the farro well, and transfer to a medium saucepan. Pour in enough fresh water to cover the farro. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the farro is al dente, 10 to 15 minutes.
Immediately drain and rinse the farro with cold running water to stop the cooking process. Toss with a splash of mild olive oil to prevent the grains from sticking together. Use right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 2 cups.
To make the torta: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a paper towel or pastry brush, generously butter a 10-inch springform pan. Dust the sides and bottom of the pan with 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until warm. Add the zucchini, if using, and saute until lightly brown, 5 to 7 minutes. (If using Swiss chard, first add the stems to the pan, and saute for about 2 minutes until starting to soften. Then, add the leaves, and saute until wilted, another 2 to 4 minutes.) Set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs well in a bowl. Add the cooked farro, ricotta, zucchini, and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add the basil (or chives) and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan and cover the top with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
If you’re unsure if your springform pan leaks at all, do place it on a jellyroll pan before putting it in the oven. Bake until golden and firm and a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.
To Drink: A Vermentino from the Tuscan coast, such as Solosole from Poggio al Tesoro.
Adapted from “Autentico” by Rolando Beramendi
More Farro Recipes to Enjoy: Braised Chicken with Farro, Kale, and Winter Squash