Farro with Mozzarella di Bufala and Tomatoes


Earlier, when I was back in Milan, I mentioned the restaurant La Latteria San Marco (Via San Marco 24) in the Brera neighborhood. Maria presides over the restaurant -- taking orders, seating guests, and managing the small crowd that inevitably forms outside the doors of the tiny nine-table eatery In a combination of broken English and Italian, I asked her about the restaurant and found out that it had been in operation for 40 years and that the menu, which changes daily, combines cuisine from Sicily, where she was raised, and from Tuscany, where her husband Arturo comes from. Due to the language problem, this was about as far as I got.

The food is amazing and simple -- dishes like polpettine al limone (slightly flattened meatballs oozing with cheese  and doused with a lemony sauce) and contorni like a simple mash of squash. The crumbly crostata served for dessert was baked by Maria at home and filled with what tasted like creme fraiche and topped with orange marmalade.

But, one of the best things I had, and truly one of the simplest, was a first course of farro with mozzarella di bufala  and  cherry tomatoes. It was nothing more than the farro -- the barley-shaped ancient grain -- boiled in salted water and served warm and topped on one side with the tomatoes and the other with cheese. Maria dropped a bottle of extra virgin olive oil off at the table for dressing the dish as you might dress a salad table-side. The farro had a chewy texture and nutty flavor. You might think that this sounds like an ascetic dish. Boiled grains? But, the olive oil and creamy mozzarella offered some richness, and the tomatoes provided a fresh and juicy textural contrast. It was excellent, healthful, and very easy to replicate at home. Some recipes will tell you to soak and cook the farro for hours, but for this dish, I found that boiling the grains in salted water for 15 to 20 minutes (before draining them) yielded just the right consistency.

A cursory search for information online about farro will tell you that the grain is simply Italian for spelt, or the opposite: a grain that is similar, but something else entirely. If you know more, please fill us in below in the comments. You can find farro at gustiamo.com, Chefshop.com, and Ditalia.com, among other purveyors.



I understand that farro is actually emmer, not spelt - although both are old forms of wheat. I gave a 15th Century recipe for farro broth in yesterdays blog post (about risotto) at
The recipe is from an Italian Renaissance chef, as translated in "The Art of Cooking: The Eminent Maestro Martino of Como " edited by Luigi Ballerini. Great book, with some modernised versions of the recipes at the end.


Yes, farro is definitely emmer wheat and NOT spelt, with which it is often confused in this country. All farro available in the US has been imported from Italy and is labelled "farro." Farro cooks relatively quickly because it is "semi-perlato," meaning that much of the bran has been rubbed off. Lorna Sass, author of WHOLE GRAINS EVERY DAY, EVERY WAY (Clarkson Potter, 2006)


Truly artisanal and in the Italian spirit is the wonderful farro available from ansonmills.com. I just tried it last week. Who'd have known-- organic farro in South Carolina! But like their grits and cornmeal, this is a wonderful product. I do soak it (as the directions suggest) overnight and then cook it for 20 minutes or so-- tender but still quite chewy.It has a wonderful roasted flavor-- and the aroma just hits you when you open the bag (even just out of the freezer). The recipe on their website for farro with pears and cranberries is not Italian, but quite good. I vary it a bit by using dried cranberries and bits of blue cheese and serving on a bed of arugula dressed with a little walnut oil and balsamic vinegar. Can't wait to try it in a more classic Italian fashion. I'll look forward to trying it as you suggest when my tomatoes come in this summer.

And grazie molto to the Old Foodie-- great info and I'm thrilled to know of your website.


Other sources of farro are igourmet.com, manicaretti.com and Fairway (near the packaged rice on the main floor). Manicaretti also carries cracked farro, farro pasta, and farro flour. Lorna Sass


Actually not ALL farro in the US is Italian. Anson Mills in NC is growing Italian hybridized farro domestically. Have yet to try it.


Don't mean to be a smarty here but as a resident of South Carolina, I just couldn't let North Carolina get the credit. Anson Mills is in Columbia, South Carolina. Since Glenn Roberts and his wonderful crew work with farms in several southern states, I'm not exactly sure where the farro is grown. But yes, it's domestic. They do a fine polenta too.


Looks amazing!!


Mmmm, I love the sound of this Farro dish. Despite being a vegetarian and a true foodie who loves to cook, I actually don't like fresh tomatoes (bad experience when I was younger). I love them cooked and am slowly appreciating their raw flavor - this might be a perfect introduction to a tomato/moz combination, which I've never much enjoyed, even though I know it's amazing...


Yummy! The tomatoes looks tempting.


I've just discovered farro as well. Love it! Have tossed it partially cooked with roasting root vegetables. Yummy.Anyone know about the Provencal grain "le petit epautre?" I believe it's what the Italians call piccolo farro? Looking for a source.
Jacqueline Church
Gourmet Food, Suite101.com


Farro (emer) is often called spelt in English, but they seem to be two different strains: Triticum dicoccum & Triticum spelta. In Toronto, it's available at Dinah's Cupboard (Yorkville). I've had great results using cooked cooled farro in salads & hot recipes which originally called for barley or rice.


I am in Italy and have searched for spelt but always ended up with a wheat. It seems that the word farro is used here for both a type of wheat and spelt. If anyone knows what I should ask for in the stores let me know because I really want spelt!


anson mills in columbia, south carolina might be another source for farro piccolo.
his grain and rice products are outstanding!!!
ansonmills.com I believe.


I just stumbled on these old posts. I did not see that Manicaretti offers cracked farro, but another source Bluebirdgrainfarms.com does. They offer a good selection of farro products including cereals, etc. and they are the farmers. I have not found a farro product that beats Bluebird Grain Farms quality.


I am looking for a store that sells Farro in Montreal. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks


Just started using farro. Will have to try it this way - sounds simple and yum. Another source for farro online is http://www.pennmac.com/items/502//


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