Simple Farro & Bean Soup

Simple Farro & Bean Soup

I’m updating this soup from the archives (2010)  because it’s the sort of hearty, timeless, comforting soup that helps in times like these. I made it this afternoon and feel a bit better because of it. There’s chopping to do, which keeps the hands busy and mind focused. The foundation ingredients are flexible and straight from the pantry - grains, canned tomatoes, beans. And if you have a lot of produce that needs to be used, a soup like this is perfect - eat some, freeze some.
Simple Farro & Bean Soup

I want to keep my original post here because it reminds me of how I felt cooking it for them ten years ago. // (February 23, 2010) I spent the night at my mom and dad's house last week. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but they live an hour south of San Francisco in Los Gatos. It's nice cooking in their kitchen this time of year because the view from the sink is quite beautiful. The hills surrounding their house are an electric shade of green and the old craggy-skinned oak trees are covered in moss and lichen. They say coyotes have been out recently, but when I was growing up it was mainly deer, skunk, and raccoon, (and the occasional rattle snake). I made a big pot of farro and bean stew for them - simple, hearty, and straightforward. They both went back for seconds, and I took that as a good sign.
Simple Farro & Bean Soup
The recipe below ended up being quite a departure from the recipe I photocopied, folded, and slipped into my overnight bag - regardless, I wanted to mention the book the inspiration came from - La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy. I've been reading through it at night. It's the culmination of the work of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina. It is an organization of thousands of members who would visit villages, towns, and farms all across Italy to document cooking techniques and ingredients - in order to preserve the culinary heritage of their country. The resulting volume is 930+ pages huge. The farro soup section has five or six recipes.
Simple Farro & Bean Soup

Over the years I’m made tweaks and variations to this soup, and topped it with any number of things. Here are a couple of favorites.

Harissa & feta: We ate the soup drizzled with harissa/olive oil and a good amount of feta cheese. Highly recommended for those of you sitting on harissa. Whisk together a ratio  about 1/3 harissa paste to 2/3 olive oil. Drizzle over the top of the soup.

Cilantro-garlic: Pictured here drizzled with a cilantro-garlic olive oil. Puree the leaves and stems of a bunch of cilantro with 2-3 cloves of garlic, a pinch of salt, and olive oil to cover.

Simple Farro & Bean Soup
A version with heirloom beans, Savoy cabbage, and kale.

Your Bean Strategy

You have a lot of latitude here. I’ve done versions of this soup with dried beans, and canned beans. I’ve used I used Sangre de Toro beans, Rosa de Castilla , cannellini beans, and (as you see pictured here) canned chickpeas. I used Sangre de Toro beans the first time around. The second time I used Rosa de Castilla. Both were good (the pot liquor from the Sangre de Toro was intense in a good way), but the Rosa de Castilla were great - they held their shape, then melted in your mouth. Red beans are traditionally used. Canned chickpeas work wonderfully too. They’re all delicious, use what you think you might like, or what you have on hand. And remember, if you use dried beans, great! Save the bean broth and use it in combination with the water called for in the recipe for a wonderful, fully-bodied broth.

Simple Farro & Bean Soup

A Creamy Soup with No Cream

One last variation you can explore if you like. If you mash a cup of your cooked beans before adding them to the soup it results in a “creamier” broth. I skipped that step in the recipe below, opted for a more clear broth (as you can see above), but keep the idea in your back pocket.

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Simple Farro & Bean Soup

3.8 from 15 votes

As noted up above, if you use dried beans by all means use the bean broth in your soup. It’s wonderful. Use it in combination with water to equal about 9 cups. Also, you can certainly experiment with other grains here, for example, whole wheat berries, or pearled barley. Just keep in mind the non-pearled grains will take longer to cook. Brown rice could also work. And lastly...this freezes well, so you can let it cool, then bag and freeze it. I didn’t have celery the last time around, but had plenty of green onions, so I chopped a bunch up and used them. Plenty of flexibility here!

  • 1 pound dried beans, cooked OR a 28-ounce can of chickpeas or cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 28 ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped (with liquid)
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 3 medium waxy new potatoes, cut 1/2-inch
  • 2 cups pearled farro
  • 5-6 big handfuls of chopped cabbage, kale, and/or greens (~1-2 heads de-stemmed)
  • Serve with any/all of the following: grated cheese, chopped olives, herby drizzle, olive oil, or a harissa drizzle
  1. If you want a creamier broth for your soup mash 3/4 cup of the beans. I find it’s easiest to just do it with my hands, and set all the beans aside.

  2. In your largest soup pot over medium-high heat combine the olive oil, onions, celery, and salt. Sauté until the onions start to brown a bit, 7 - 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another minute or two. Add the carrot, potatoes, farro and nine cups of water. Bring to a boil and then dial back to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the farro is cooked through, 20 - 30 minutes. Be sure the vegetables are tender through as well. If you need to stir in more water or broth do so 1/2 cup at a time until the stew is the consistency you like. Taste and add a bit more salt if needed.

  3. Stir in the beans, bring back up to a simmer, and then stir in the kale or cabbage. Cook another few minutes until it collapses. Serve in bowls topped with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan and a generous drizzle of good olive oil (or alternately harissa oil/feta), or any of the suggested toppings.

  4. When you go to reheat leftovers you may need to add water to thin the stew out, and then readjust the seasoning.

Serves 12

Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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This sounds great. I've never cooked farro before, but have been wanting to try it. Also, I loved your description of your parents' house in Los Gatos, along with all the wildlife... coyotes, deer, skunk, and raccoon, and the occasional rattle snake. When you said that you made a big pot of farro and bean stew "for them", it made me smile.


I have to admit that I didn't know what farro was, and the comments up to now didn't exactly help me understand, but the word "pearled" helped some. I see now, with a little searching on the net, that it is a form of wheat, called emmer. I see that "In Italy, emmer bread (pane di farro) can be found in bakeries in some areas. Emmer has been traditionally consumed in Tuscany as whole grains, in soup. Its use for making pasta is a recent response to the health food market..." (quoted from Wikipedia). Sho Kuwamoto seems correct that farro and spelt are not identical. The Emmer wheat article above explains some of the historical confusion of the two terms as translation errors of old texts and goes into the biological distinctions. With that in mind, it'd be interesting to have both in dry form and in cooked form too, but I wonder if added to all the other flavors in this recipe, whether each would retain their distinctiveness in texture or flavor (I just don't have the experience to predict this outcome).


mmmmmmm...looks crazy good!

Hi Heidi, A perfect soup for this time of year; adding Harissa really gives it a lift. Along the same lines, I will often use Marash chili and then finish with a squeeze of lemon. It lends a nice blast of acidity with heat. All my best, Kathy HS: Sounds good as always Kath, love your ideas.

Kathy Fitz

Exactly what I need for tonight's dinner. Except the red beans..I have lentils made up already. Thanks for the inspiration!


This came one day too late! Last night I had soaked spelt (for a change from farro) and huge scarlet runner beans, and was looking for inspiration. But in the end I just cooked them (separately) in plain water, then sauteed up what veggies I had (onion, lots of garlic, a yellow bell pepper and a couple stalks of celery) and added the beans & spelt with finely chopped kale. (It has been a revelation to me that if you chop it finely, kale needs very little if any cooking.) It was really delicious. The simple strong flavors of the beans, wheat and kale (and garlic) were inspirational. "Simple" was definitely the keyword.


Heidi! I cannot wait to make this tonight (beans are soaking!) It is perfect for the recent rain- I've been reading your blog for awhile- and use your cookbook often (I have found it also makes a great gift!) and just wanted to share my appreciation for your site. Wonderful feel-good food!

Lizzy L

just what i want to be eating right now, hot and hearty, fresh and light. oh, how i love farro...


Looks delish, Heidi and perfect for a rainy Manhattan evening...I'm surely going to whip this stew up tonight..perfect timing! Thank you...

The Healthy Apple

So many of my favorite ingredients in one earthy cold weather dish. I'm off to purchase ingredients missing from my larder immediately. Miss you Pam, hope our paths cross soon. xo

Pamela Hunter

You are the only person who can make me salivate insanely despite the fact that I am currently eating lunch. This looks marvelous. I can picture having this by the fire after a long day of skiing with a nice glass of wine. Your parent's house sounds beautiful. Wish we could see the view out the window, too! ;)


I always love your soups. This sounds hearty and delicious. I'm wondering - can I sub short-grain brown rice for the farro? Can't have the farro.


Whenever I lack inspiration for what to make for dinner, I just have to surf on over here and wham! - there's our supper. This looks so delicious and just the ticket for a family gathered around the table on a winter evening. Thanks!

mitzimi @

This look so hearty and delicious! It's snowing here and this would warm me right up :)

Nutmeg Nanny

shockingly, i actually have everything for this at home, except the cabbage. and i think i will have to grab a knob of feta, too. i've been needing a little inspiration to get me through these last few weeks of winter, and this looks perfectly up to the task, especially since it looks like dc is in for yet another round of snow (ugh). cheers, and thanks again for continuing to be such a source of inspiration in my kitchen :)

Sarah (Braise & Butter)

shockingly, i actually have everything for this at home, except the cabbage. and i think i will have to grab a knob of feta, too. i've been needing a little inspiration to get me through these last few weeks of winter, and this looks perfectly up to the task, especially since it looks like dc is in for yet another round of snow (ugh). cheers, and thanks again for continuing to be such a source of inspiration in my kitchen :)

Sarah (Braise & Butter)

Simply perfect. I just used nearly the same list of ingredients to create a garden burger recipe (to be posted next week). When everything has been in the ground for so long, at this time of the year I have come to accept that root veggie and bean stews are the staple.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen

I have been looking for a recipe like this - only yours is better than the one I had in mind, as usual ;) Next time you are at your parents, take a picture of that view from the kitchen window. Since a lot of us spend a good part of our lives in the kitchen, the view is an important factor in picking a house! Mine looks at a gorgeous, monstrous oak tree with endless variations of wildlife using it. Enough, off to make that soup!

Holly Brown

This stew looks so good! Heidi I don't think I've ever commented before, but let me just say -- I love your recipes and I appreciate you posting them for all to enjoy! I have 2 questions: 1. Instead of pearled farro, would pearled couscous work? I have a big container of that at home already. Alternatively, could I use brown rice? 2. For the beans -- would pinto work okay? I can't wait to try this stew! :) HS: Hi Libby - I'm going to vote no on the couscous, and no on the pintos :/ But the brown rice might make a nice alternative to the farro - different, but probably good nonetheless.


This sounds fantastic! I can never have enough ideas for preparing beans 'n' greens! To those who want to avoid gluten, I suggest substituting groats or steel-cut oats! You can buy gluten-free oats to avoid cross-contamination, though a GF friend of mine feels comfortable using McCann's Irish oats. I love the chewiness of the oats themselves, and the inulin they release thickens up a broth nicely!


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