Spring is here! Well, sort of. We may have had a snowstorm on the official first day of spring, and it may have been 16 degrees this morning, but spring is here, damnit!
Wikipedia says it all: spring is rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth. But even all that aside, I find spring to be the loveliest, most romantic of the seasons. Budding flowers, farmers markets, baby chicks, all of that loveliness. Transitioning to dresses, light jackets, porch hanging with friends, patio drinking and eating, my favorite color green everywhere – I could go on and on!
As last spring was a particularly rough one due to unforeseen circumstances, I am ready to embrace this year and see what the season is like in New England. We’ll also be driving to Montreal at the end of April so hopefully we will be able to see blooms in the botanical garden.
Anywho, this weekend I was feeling the spring vibes so I decided to make a version of one of my favorite dishes, risotto. But instead of using the traditional Arborio rice, I decided to use farro, or pearled spelt, to make it a farrotto. The benefit of using farro over Arborio is a higher fiber content. I don’t really have a preference over the texture of the two, so I’ll probably always use farro if I have it. This recipe is similar to last year’s spring vegetable risotto – but instead of ramps I used asparagus and peas.
2 tablespoons butter
2 oz. pancetta, cubed
4-5 cups of chicken broth
¾ cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups pearled spelt
1 leek, trimmed, cleaned, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup of peas
7-8 asparagus stalks, chopped to 1 inch pieces
4-5 Cremini mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan, and additional for garnishing
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt, pepper, and piment d’espelette to taste
Heat the chicken broth in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the broth sit with a lid to keep warm. In a risotto pan or a deep sauté pan, brown the pancetta over medium heat until crisp. Remove the pancetta from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside.
Throw the leeks into the pan with the rendered fat from the pancetta and cook until they begin to become translucent. Add in the garlic, cooking for an additional minute. Salt and pepper to taste. Then throw in the farro, letting it toast for a minute or two. Feel free to drizzle a bit of olive oil if it looks like the mixture is becoming too dry. Next, pour in the wine.
Let the wine reduce as you stir the mixture, continuously. Once reduced, slowly add in ladles full (about ½ cups) of chicken broth, letting each reduce as you stir continuously before adding the next. Do this for roughly twenty minutes until the farrotto is about 5 minutes from being finished.
When 20 minutes is up, throw in the rest of the vegetables. Stir to combine, and continue to add a bit more broth. Once reduced (keep stirring!) and the mixture is ready to go, remove from the heat. Add in the two tablespoons of butter and ¼ cup of parmesan. Stir, again, to combine. Finally, toss in the parsley in addition to salt and pepper as needed.
Serve the farrotto topped additional parmesan, a dash of piment d’espelette and the crispy pancetta.