Farro and Roasted Butternut Squash

Farro and Roasted Butternut Squash Recipe


Balsamic roasted butternut squash, deeply toasted walnuts, and nutty farro come together in this salad inspired by the countless farro salads I enjoyed while on the Umbrian chapter of my recent Italian adventure. The Italians were using farro alongside cherry tomatoes and basil (with the occasional introduction of cheese or local olives), but the seasons changed while I was away, and after a survey of the farmer's market on Saturday, I knew a butternut squash recipe was in the cards.

Let me be honest, if we are talking winter squash, I'm going to advocate butternut squash for a few reasons. The root of my fondness for the butternut squash stems not only from enjoying their flavor and texture, it also comes from my ability to peel them relatively quickly* versus their other autumnal brethren. I love the color and flavor of acorn squash, and I use pumpkin here and there, but taking down a pumpkin can put me in a foul mood.

I thought long and hard about this recipe once I knew the general direction I was headed. I was taking the salad over to a friends house, for one of our regular "potlucks" and it's a group of discerning and vocal palettes - I've written a bit about these ladies before. The rainy weather was screaming roasted ingredients, so that ended up being a bit of a no-brainer, but I ran into some decision-making surrounding the final "dressing".

I knew I wanted to use a toasted walnut oil I had on hand as the dressing, or as a major component in the dressing. I thought about tossing the entire salad with a simple walnut-balsamic vinaigrette but when I tested it the balsamic totally overpowered the toasted walnut oil I was using. At the same time I was busy almost burning the walnuts. The salad actually became more about the walnuts at this point for me, I wanted to make sure that walnut flavor didn't get lost. It turned out that the deep deep flavor that came off the slightly over-toasted walnuts gave the walnut flavor in the oil and the nuts the muscle it needed to stand up to the rest of the dish.

Another possible direction: There were moments where I also considered a more Thai-inspired angle, maybe a spicy coconut milk dressing, limes, tomatoes, basil, pickled red onions - it ended up feeling too summery to me. Delicious, but off-season.

If you've never tried farro I encourage you to give it a shot. A recipe like this keeps really well in the refrigerator, can be made ahead of time, and is delicious warm or at room temperature. I know many of you have a Whole Foods Market or natural food store within your communities, check out the bin section for farro and let me know how it goes! It's great to be back in my own kitchen, thank you to all of you for the nice comments on my Italy posts.

butternut squash recipe

A few other seasonal recipes to consider:

- Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup
- Curried Apple Couscous
- Baked Carrot Oven Fries
- Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

*For a recipe like this I'll take a medium butternut squash, lob off the little stem end so it is flat, cut off the entire neck - so, now I am dealing with a cylinder shape. I stand that on end and run a knife top to bottom to peel it. Then I cut the 1/2-inch disks - it's easy to cube from there. With the big bulb part, I'll just halve it, clear out the seeds, drizzle some oil and a sprinkle some salt, roast, and use that as the basis for a simple soup. No waste, minimal fuss, all ten fingers intact in the end. If you are dealing with a particularly long "neck" try cutting it into two cylindrical shaped pieces.

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Farro and Roasted Butternut Squash

If you are pressed for time, opt for a lightly or semi-pearled farro (actually easier to find in some places), which will cut the cooking time for the grains down to about 20 minutes. Barley, both hulled and pearled, would make a nice substitution if you are having trouble finding farro. Also, I found the beautiful red spring onions at the farmers' market but regular red onions will work well, and will be much easier to find.

2 cups farro, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
5 cups water (or stock)
3 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large red onion cut into 1/8ths
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup walnuts, deeply toasted
3 tablespoons toasted walnut oil (or more olive oil)
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine the farro, salt, and water in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender, 45 minutes to an hour, or about half the time if you are using semi-pearled farro. Taste often as it is cooking, you want it to be toothsome and retain structure. Remove from heat, drain any excess water, and set aside.

While the farro is cooking toss the squash, onion, and thyme with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a couple big pinches of salt on a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer and place in the oven for about 20 minutes. Toss the squash and onions every 5-7 minutes to get browning on multiple sides. Remove from the oven, let cool a bit, and mince just 1/2 of the red onions.

In a large bowl gently toss the everything (except the goat cheese) with the toasted walnut oil (or olive oil). Taste and add a bit of salt if necessary. Serve family-style in a simple bowl or on a platter garnished with the goat cheese.

Serves 6 - 8 as a side, less as a main.

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Comments


Looks great .. very rustic! I had never heard of Farro before and I believe I have never come across it at the markets [maybe coz I wasn't looking for it], kinda looks like shallots doesn't it? Anything else which is similar in taste and can be substituted?

October 16, 2007
 

My husband is on a health food kick right now, so I might try your farro salad. Thanks for posting!

October 16, 2007
 

I love butternut squash, too, but have not ever tried farro (I have to admit I have yet to taste quinoa either) but we are camping in the mountains this weekend and pass by a Whole Foods on the way and I will be looking for it!

October 16, 2007
 

Sarah B

I absolutely love me some butternut squash, but you've gotta be kidding about them being easy to peel! Maybe you've got sharper knives than me or something, cause last time I made squash soup (with apples, swiss chard and a hint of curry), I was hacking away at that squash's tough skin for literally an hour. If it weren't so delicious I'd stay away from the stuff. I suppose your solution of not peeling the bulb part at all would help, but it's still a real pain in the butt.

October 16, 2007
 

So what is farro exactly? It looks like wheat but how would you describe it otherwise?

October 16, 2007
 

I glanced at the picture and thought it was buckwheat. So now I am thinking that buckwheat could make a good substitute for those who can't find farro or do not like barley (ME) ;)

October 16, 2007
 

Marilyn Mandel

Farro is actually spelt, not barley. Few
clerks in any grocery store, however
gourmet, don't know it and look at you
crosseyed. Spelt you can get in most
health oriented markets.

October 16, 2007
 

Ariel Diamond

Oh, but there are so many more kinds of squash to try than the traditional triumvirate of butternut, acorn and pumpkin! head to the farmers market for dozens of varieties -- more than I've even had time to try, and I am what you might call a squash enthusiast. Check out red kuri for a thin-skinned deep orange creamy squash that you don't have to peel, or delicata for a delightful light (yes, delicate) squash perfect with just butter and maple syrup. I have a new one that I have yet to chop open -- a 2-ft-long pink banana that the farmer told me would blow my mind.

October 16, 2007
 

Hmmm...I don't recall seeing any farro at my Whole Foods, but maybe I can use some other grain. I have some Kasha, some Amaranth and some Quinoa lying around.

I agree that taking down a pumpkin is hard work-but I figured out an easy way to deal with that problem. Check out my post about samurai swords and winter squash for some ideas:): http://riceandbeansindc.blogspot.com/2007/10/pumpkin-and-samurai-sword-walk-into-bar.html

October 16, 2007
 

I love Farro. My mother makes a delicious and thick Farro and chickpea soup. Your salad looks and sounds absolutely divine. Now that you've mentioned the peeling part of winter squashes...I don't know how I am going to deal with my acorn squash I bought a couple of days ago. I haven't thought about the peeling when I bought it...DAH!!

October 16, 2007
 

Ellen

Heidi--
Thank you for your tips on peeling butternut squash! I peeled three this weekend (bulbous part and all, without lopping off the neck) and it took *forever*. I vowed only to roast & never to peel squash again. But with your advice, I think it should go better next time...

October 16, 2007
 

dana

Yes, farro is actually spelt, an ancient non-hybrid version of wheat. It is more easily digested than modern hybrid forms of wheat (more water soluble) and many people who have difficulty tolerating wheat are able to eat spelt without trouble. Note: it does contain gluten and is not suitable for a gluten-free diet.
Farro is the Italian name for it.
While I have never seen it "pearled" at Whole Foods, (they do carry many other spelt flours and products) I have found the pearlized version of Farro at Trader Joe's under their own brand. It's wonderful. As an alternative, I sometimes use Arborio rice.

October 16, 2007
 

Beautiful photos. I must find farro!

October 16, 2007
 

OMG, I was just reading all the comments [very helpful ones], including my own ...I can't believe I wrote that farro looks like shallots, when I meant to write wheat. What was I thinking!! In my defense, I guess the lovely colours of the shallots were so overpowering, they muddled my already pregnant mind :):)

October 16, 2007
 

There's something particuarly autumnal about walnuts (compared with other nuts) - I bet they work really well with the squash and farro Heidi.

I use pretty much the same technique for chopping and peeling my squash but I should also admit it to taking the easy route and getting my other half to do it when I can't be bothered (how lazy is that - I'll never make a proper feminist!)

October 16, 2007
 

Ed

Farro is not spelt.

They are both species of wheat but not the same species.

Farro or emmer wheat is Triticum dicoccon.

Spelt, a different species of wheat, is Triticum spelta.

October 17, 2007
 

I love the pairing of walnuts with the butternut squash! I wish we had more squash here in Italy...often they don't even have specific names for the 4-5 different types that exist here...just zucca!

October 17, 2007
 

Nancy

I live in NY and work right by a Whole Foods in White Plains. They do have pre-packaged (vacuum sealed) farro. It's hit or miss in catching it in stock and it is a little pricey, but worth it. I'd love to try this since I adore butternut squash, and any sort of salad is right up my alley!

October 17, 2007
 

Carrie

Wow... I kind of feel silly posting this... I always use a regular vegetable peeler for my butternut squash. No knives, to tough skin, the peeler takes it all right off. Maybe the butternuts I'm getting aren't as 'woody' as others?? I've never had any trouble this way. Even with an old, cheap peeler....

October 17, 2007
 

Like Ariel Diamond above, I am a fan of red kuri squash--no peeling makes it sooo easy to work with. It's also delicious and very pretty.

If you're limited to the usual grocery store varieties, I tend to agree that butternut has the best reward-to-effort ratio. If I'm looking for smaller quantities or want something easier to peel and slice, I sometimes substitute sweet potatoes for winter squash.

This recipe looks delicious. I have yet to try farro because the only stuff I've seen at my local Whole Foods is about 7 dollars for a tiny bag--way more expensive than other grains. They don't seem to carry it in the bulk section.

October 17, 2007
 

Farro is definitely worth seeking out! I'm quite sure, Heidi, you introduced me to it some time along the way. And the technique for peeling butternut squash is a winner - I discovered it myself this fall (after years of only roasting butternut squash whole so there was no need to cut into one or peel one) and it really is that easy.

October 17, 2007
 

Nancy

If you don't want to bother peeling and cutting the butternut squash yourself, I've seen it in many stores already cleaned and cubed. You're paying extra, but if you're short on time and patience, it may be worth it to you.

October 17, 2007
 

vici

A vegetable peeler has always worked great for me too, on Butternut squash.
Welcome home Heidi...v

October 17, 2007
 

Mmm...I love roasted butternut squash, and it just shouts Autumn!

October 17, 2007
 

c

What are those purple things? Are those red onions?

October 17, 2007
 

Your post couldn't have come at a better time! I just bought some farro and was debating what to do with it---AND I have a butternut squash as well, which I was thinking of using for soup, but NOW I know EXACTLY what I'll do---use them both for your DELICIOUS sounding recipe! THANKS! The stars are all alligning for me in the food world today!!! Can't wait to try it....

October 17, 2007
 

barb

I agree with Ed that farro is not spelt. I tried using spelt expecting it to taste like farro and it did not. My local Whole Foods here in CO does not carry Farro.(Unless they are hiding it from me!) I did find some online, it is pricey. However, it is unlike anything--the texture is light, like a dumpling with a little chewy texture. Truly wonderful flavor as well.

October 17, 2007
 

olivia

i get excited for fall food just because of these colors! the rusty oranges and intense purples are so appealing, especially when the days are getting greyer. warms me right up!

October 17, 2007
 

barb

For anyone interested, I found organic farro at igourmet.com in a 17.8 oz. package for 5.99 plus shipping. This was not too bad of a price. The shipping is a killer, but still maybe less painful than finding farro in a store locally.

October 17, 2007
 

so i've trained myself to almost always reach for the kosher salt unless i'm cooking with seafood. the "local wines for braising local recipes" mentality. parallelism in food.

just curious about your choice of sea salt for this recipe.

October 17, 2007
 

Gretchen

Barb - In the Denver area, you can buy farro at Parisi (restaurant/cafe) just North of Highlands in Tennyson Square (I think 44th & Tennyson) and also at St. Killians cheese shop in Highlands Square (around 32nd an Lowell). It's not cheap, but you won't be paying for that shipping!! Wish we had Trader Joe's here...

October 17, 2007
 

jen

i buy my farro at A.G. Ferrari. http://www.agferrari.com

there are stores all over the SF bay area.

October 17, 2007
 

I've been searching for farro for the longest time. This recipe looks wonderful, especially with toasted walnut oil. I think hazelnuts and hazelnut oil would also be a nice variation. I'll have to try this recipe out at home. Thanks!

October 17, 2007
 

This is _the_ perfect autumnal dish! Excellent combination of flavours. It's a must to try!

October 17, 2007
 

I love butternut squash in any preparation and this dish truly looks amazing! Thanks for the terrific autumn recipe.

October 17, 2007
 

I just picked up a gorgeous butternut squash at the market today so this recipe comes at a perfect time!

October 17, 2007
 

Heidi,
I am in awe of the picture, so beautiful and rustic. I love your blog

October 17, 2007
 

Looks delicious! I love winter squash of all types, but usually fall back on butternut because I find it easiest to peel (also use a plain old vegetable peel). Have you ever noticed that the sap can dry your hands out? Apparently some of us are allergic to it. I wear a rubber glove on the hand I'm holding it with these days...

October 18, 2007
 

heidi - how thrilled was i to see this recipe! just tuesday i was searching your site for a farro dish! i went in a different direction and got a great dinner out of it but now this is on my list for the next batch. just perfection.

your site continues to inspire me. sheer beauty and really fine cooking. through your writings your personal warmth reaches out and touches me. i read a lot of excellent cooking blogs but yours is the kindest... great vibe.

claudia from cookeatFRET

October 18, 2007
 

I bet a Moroccan-inspired dressing would have been delicious with this. A little harissa or shatta, a bit of lemon and some olive oil would set off the sweetness of the squash to great effect. Beautiful recipe, thanks for sharing. I'm a farro addict.

October 18, 2007
 

Elishevah

your site showed up on top of an e-mail and out of curiosity i opened it bec there was something about butternut squash. OMG, was i pleased to discover you!!!!!! It was so great to read about Farro and realize that there is so much to discover in this world that is good and good for you. i live in Puerto Rico whre evertything is outrageously expensive. so on my next trip to the states i' be going to trader joe's to find farro. can't wait to go and bring back any type of squash i can find.
everyday i look for the miracle in my life. Today it was finding this site.

October 18, 2007
 

Very autumnal, with the squash and walnuts - both of which are in my garden. This is my first year with butternut, and I am really enjoying it - flavor and ease of work. I'm butchering my pumpkin this weekend - I understand about the foul mood!

October 18, 2007
 

Anonymous

Farro is neither wheat nor spelt. Farro is gluten-free and is good for guests with celiac disease. It's a lovely, nutty grain (heirloom / ancient) as described and I'd like it in texture to wheat berries. I found farro in my local Whole Foods, though unfortunately not in bulk. I had to buy a bag for another recipe entirely, and it was a bit expenise; however, its density and swell-factor make a little go a long way. Another easy, good-looking recipe-- thanks, Heidi! To those of you who haven't tried quinoa yet-- get on it. It's about $1.20 per lb and a lb of quinoa is a LOT of quinoa; it cooks up quickly and you can dress is dozens of different ways. It's one of the best nutritional bargains out there. Quinoa and bananas. Seriously. Happy eating.

October 18, 2007
 

Just to clarify the above comment, farro is not gluten free, and therefore it is not safe for people with celiac disease. (Wouldn't want anyone inadvertently making a guest sick.)

October 18, 2007
 

Hmm...never heard of farro before...where would I get it in CA?? your dish looks great, but then again, what's new in that!? :)

btw, I'm hosting AFAM-Peach/Nectarine event this month on my blog, and it'd be great if you Heidi, and the other readers could participate...send in some entry with peaches, even canned ones...check my blog for details:) there are so many creative cooks out here it'd be great to have a taste of their recipes!!

October 18, 2007
 

This looks absolutely delicious. And I agree, butternut squash is the way to go--tasty and easy to peel.

In Portland, Oregon I've seen farro at Pastaworks. Surprisingly, Bob's Red Mill doesn't carry it.

October 18, 2007
 

I already posted, but had to return to say how DELICIOUS this recipe was! I made it tonight using the semi-pearled farro (found it at a local gourmet shop---pricey! $7 for a pound!). It cooked quickly---a little under 20 mins for a perfectly toothy bite. Also used light chevre for the cheese. A perfect, autumn dish. Thanks for sharing---it was really spectacular Heidi!

October 18, 2007
 

betsy

i made butternut squash risotto earlier this week. i have a couple of cups of cubed raw squash in my fridge. i want to freeze it to use later--hopefully for this recipe. does anyone know if i should blanch it first or is it okay to just freeze in a bag?
thanks

October 19, 2007
 

@betsy: I've had bad experiences with freezing pumpkin or butternut squash. Might have been just bad luck but it turned quite soggy after defrosting it.

Thank you for the recipe Heidi, I'd love to try this out - will probably substitute cream cheese for the goat cheese.

October 19, 2007
 

Methinks you'll find the latest Food on the Food entry interesting...

October 19, 2007
 

I've been hanging on to a faro salad recipe for ages... I think your photo may be just the inspiration I need to give it a whirl!

October 20, 2007
 

I love the purple!

October 20, 2007
 

claudine

Just discovered this site - trying this out today!

October 21, 2007
 

Hi there!

I just found your blog though a google search for "duck measuring cups" and found your post from back in 2005 about favorite kitchen items. Just want to let you know that I have those very same ducks! I found them at a shop on holidays in Japan and i LOVE them. Looks like they must be a recreation of the original ducks that your grandma had, but they're just as cute. I wish I could provide more info as to where I got them from but can't remember the name of the shop. But just wanted to let you know that they're still out there :)

October 21, 2007
 

Jeannie

Hi! We have tons of squash and pumpkins here in the midwest. I made the Thai soup and it was really, really good. But at some point, this was my first time working with pumpkins, could u give some helpful hints on dealing with the pumpkin skin....and anyways to tell how ripe a squash is, I found some squash have more falvor than others.
I love your recipes though because they r simple which is good for a person like me and really focus on the veggies....

October 22, 2007