Garfagnana,Tuscany: Farro Soup

A couple of weeks ago I described (in a tiny chestnut shell), my recent trip to visit a friend in Lucca, Italy. I spoke of our hike north of Lucca in the Garfagnana, where the landscape was dotted with chestnut hunters, and made a pasta dish using Michigan chestnuts when I arrived home.  While at the Garfagnana park service station, I also noticed bags of farro – the locally cultivated spelt – alongside bags of chestnut purées and pastas.

The cooking in this mountain region is no-nonsense sturdy fare using indigenous ingredients, and I savored a soup made of farro, which I tried to recreate in this recipe. Soups such as this, which are often accompanied by local salami, dark bread and vegetables preserved in oil, find a place to ward off the chill at many a long, wooden hilltop table in this lovely Tuscan area.

I’ve written about farro a great deal and am happy it’s so easily found in Ann Arbor stores. In Tuscany, this whole grain is ubiquitous, I even purchased a bag at a gas station! Kale and sage are still thriving in winter gardens, ingredients quite lovely in this hearty winter soup.

Past farro posts of mine have included Lemony Farro Risotto with Currants, Pine Nuts and SpinachCorn and Tomato Farrosotto, Italian Farro with Ground Beef, Fennel and Peas, and Broccoli and Farro Salad with Feta.

Recipe: Garfagnana Farro Soup


  • 1 cup dry white beans
  • 2-3 pieces thick cut bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/3-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup uncooked farro
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice (imported Italian preferred)
  • 6 cups stock or water, plus more as necessary
  • 6 cups stemmed and torn kale, washed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Freshly grated hard sheep’s milk cheese, such as Pecorino


  1. Soak beans in water to cover by 2-inches for 24 hours. 2. Place bacon or pancetta in a large, heavy-bottomed pan or Dutch oven over medium heat; fry until much of the fat is rendered, about six minutes.
  2. Stir in onion, celery and carrots. Cook until vegetables are softened, 5 to 10 minutes, then stir in garlic, farro, soaked beans, tomatoes and stock.
  3. Bring to a boil, then adjust heat to medium. Cook thirty minutes and add kale. Continue cooking until farro and beans are tender, at least an additional 30 minutes, adding stock or water as necessary if mixture becomes too thick.
  4. Stir in sage, then cook another 5 minutes. Add kosher salt, if necessary, and red pepper flakes to taste, and serve garnished with grated cheese.

Number of servings (yield): 6

Bean Soak Time: 24 hours

Active Time: 30 minutes

Simmer Time: At least an hour

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.


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