Meatless Monday: Farro Risotto with Peas and Lemon

Farro risotto with peas and lemon for a Meatless Monday.

If you make or order risotto and it looks more like a gluey softball on a plate – something is amiss. The traditional Italian dish, made with small grain, starchy rice should flow like a wave when a plate is tilted back and forth – this movement is called “all’onda” in Italian. This loose creaminess should come from the grain’s inherent starch content, rather than copious amounts of butter and cream.

For this week’s Meatless Monday recipe we decided to swap the rice for farro, an ancient grain that is nutty in flavor and beats quinoa in nutrient values with zero fat, double the calcium, and the same protein content (based on a ¼ cup of dry farro).

Farro Risotto with Peas and Lemon

8 cups vegetable stock
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cups farro
1 cup diced leek, white and light green part only, loosely packed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
2 teaspoons salt plus a pinch, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground dried thyme
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice, divided, plus the zest of one lemon
2 cups frozen peas
¼ minced parsley plus ¾ cup parsley leaves, loosely packed
3 tablespoons minced chives, divided

Pour the vegetable stock into a medium sauce pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and allow to barely simmer.

Measure 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a large, heavy bottomed pot and set it over medium heat. Once the oil is warm but not smoking, add the farro to the pot and toast in the oil for 2 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the diced leeks and sweat for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the minced garlic and mix until garlic is fragrant, about 10 seconds.

Deglaze the pot with the white wine; season the farro with 2 teaspoons salt, pepper, and ground thyme, and stir until the wine is fully absorbed. Add one-quarter of the vegetable stock to the pot and mix with the wooden spoon until the liquid is almost fully absorbed into the grain, about 3 minutes.

Add another one-quarter the stock and gently stir until all liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes again. Repeat this process once more so that you still have one-quarter of the stock left in the sauce pot. At this point the farro will not absorb the liquid as fast as before but maintain the 3 minute schedule.

Stir in ¼ cup of lemon juice along with the zest of one lemon then pour in the remaining stock. Mix the farro to integrate the lemon flavor then cover with a heavy lid and cook, still on medium, for 10 minutes.

Add the peas, 1 tablespoon olive oil, the remaining ¼ cup of lemon juice, and ¼ cup minced parsley to the pot, stir, then remove the pot from the heat and let the risotto rest for 5 minutes. This allows the starches to relax, yielding a creamy texture, and for the peas to heat through.

Meanwhile, place the parsley leaves in a small bowl with the chives and season with a pinch of salt, the last tablespoon of olive oil, and remaining 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.

Ladle the loose risotto into a bowl and top with a bit of the parsley salad.

This recipe makes 6 servings.