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The popularity of farro isn't hard to understand, as it's an extremely versatile grain with a nutty flavor and chewy bite.

Also known as emmer, farro is a type of wheat that's been widely cultivated in the Mediterranean for thousands of years. And it's becoming more and more popular in the United States.

I love it in salads or pilafs, but my favorite way to enjoy farro is in soup. Unlike rice or noodles, which can become mushy as they sit in the soup, farro is hearty enough to maintain its satisfying texture, which is why it works so well in this Italian soup.

The Italians have been enjoying this grain for centuries. In fact, it was so important to the Roman Legions that it was sometimes used as currency.

In this week's Tuscan Bean and Farro Soup, we're putting this hardworking grain to good use in a couple of ways, both in crispy and chewy form.

Crispy farro, made by either roasting or sautéing cooked farro with a little olive oil, is a great healthy, nutty-tasting garnish for both soups and salads.

This soup starts with pancetta, which is chopped and sautéed with cooked (and thoroughly dried) farro until both are browned and crispy. This mixture is saved to use for garnish, while onions, carrots and celery are sautéed in the remaining fat.

Beans, stock, tomatoes and herbs are added and simmered together to marry the flavors before the soup is puréed until smooth.

More cooked farro is then added, giving the dish texture and interest.

A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of the pancetta and farro garnish finishes off this memorable soup. Serve with a crusty bread and a glass of your favorite Italian wine.

Tuscan Bean and Farro Soup

Serves 6.

Simple and comforting, this hearty Italian soup, with its crispy farro and pancetta garnish, is sure to please on a chilly spring night. Note: When pureeing hot liquid in a blender, remove the plastic insert in the lid and cover with a dish towel to prevent any steam buildup and splattering. From Meredith Deeds.

• 2 1/2 c. cooked farro, divided

• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

• 3 oz. pancetta, chopped

• 1 medium onion, chopped

• 1 medium carrot, chopped

• 1 medium celery stalk, chopped

• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

• 3 (15-oz. cans) borlotti, pinto, red or kidney beans, drained and rinsed

• 1 (14-oz.) can diced tomatoes

• 3 c. vegetable or chicken stock, plus more if necessary

• 1 sprig rosemary

• 1 sprig sage

• 1 sprig thyme

• 2 bay leaves

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


Place 1 cup of cooked farro on a plate and pat dry with paper towels. Reserve the remaining 1 1/2 cups farro.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat begins to render. Add the 1 cup farro to the pancetta and continue to cook until both are lightly browned and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta and farro to a paper-towel-lined plate. Set aside for garnish.

Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the pot with the pancetta drippings and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 6 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, rosemary, sage, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove herb sprigs and bay leaves and discard.

Purée bean soup in two batches in blender (see Note) or with an immersion blender, until smooth. Return to pot and add the remaining 1 1/2 cups cooked farro. Continue to cook over medium heat until hot, 3 or 4 minutes. If the soup is too thick, add a little more stock. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve the soup garnished with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of the pancetta and crispy farro mixture over the top.

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at Follow her on Instagram ­at @meredithdeeds.