ZUPPA DI LENTICCHIE E FARRO. Castelluccio di Norcia, in the South-East of Umbria is a tiny village located on a lonely outcrop at the centre of one of the most spectacular areas of Central Italy, the Piano Grande . The fields of this magnificent plain produce farro wheat, and the most delicious, tiny, tender lentils.
Farro is an ancestral wheat with a characteristic nutty flavor. The term “farro” is a collective name of 3 species of grains, i.e. emmer, einkorn and spelt. It is considered a healthy food for its high protein and fiber content. Ginger was used in Italian cuisine centuries ago, but virtually disappeared after the Renaissance. For a more traditional Mediterranean flavor, ginger can be substituted with a sprig of rosemary or a handful of sage leaves, not both together!
- 1 large onion, sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 cup/250 gr. small brown whole lentils
- 1 cup/250 gr. farro
- parsley, finely chopped
- 4 cups/ 1 lt. water or vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 large garlic clove, halved lengthwise
- 1/2 slice toasted Italian crusty bread/person
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan/person
Some brands of farro might need to be soaked overnight in cold water. Most farro sold nowadays is pearled so does not need soaking.
In a 4-quart heavy saucepan make a “soffritto” by softening the onion in olive oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden. Add ginger and stir for 1 min. Add lentils and spelt, hot water or stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, until soup is thickened and lentils are soft but still retaining their shape, about 30 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper only when cooked.
At this stage the cooled soup can be frozen. When ready to serve defrost, add some water – it will be quite solid – and bring to a low boil.
Toast bread slices, rub generously with fresh garlic and then cut them into small cubes. Ladle the soup into soup bowls, scatter over each bowl the chopped parsley, bread cubes , a teaspoon of good extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Serve immediately.