Farro and Roasted Butternut Squash Recipe

A wonderful farro and roasted butternut squash recipe. Balsamic roasted butternut squash, deeply toasted walnuts, and nutty farro come together in this delicious recipe.

Farro and Roasted Butternut Squash

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.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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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.


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


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...


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


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


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


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

maninas: food matters

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!


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...


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.


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.


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!


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.


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....

The Secret Ingredient

What are those purple things? Are those red onions?


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


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


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.


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.


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