Superfoods that are popular are often high in carbs, even if they are healthy and…
If things seem a little quiet around here this summer, do know that it’s less because I’m out having a hot vax summer and more because I’m in my own personal quarantine-for-a-good-cause: finishing up my third cookbook, which will be out next fall. Although I’m somewhat (“somewhat”) panicked by the vanishing weeks between now and the deadline, I am so excited about this book and I can’t wait to tell you more about it, you know, should I survive the photoshoot and edits. (If you’ve spent some time on this site, you know what a forbidding task the copyeditor has ahead.)
But I can’t let another week go by without telling you about the most delicious, pinnacle-of-summer baked grain dish that has ever existed in my kitchen. The origin of this recipe is pasta bake that a favorite* reader named Marcia sent me several years ago from a Williams-Sonoma catalogue. It’s a summer staple for her and she thinks it’s fantastic because all of the ingredients are easy for her to get fresh and local. If you have a CSA or garden or farmers market access right now, boy, would they like to sell some corn, tomatoes, and zucchini! The first time I made it I used penne, as the recipe recommends and it was spectacularly delicious. So why do I use farro instead here? Because the sauce is so good, it doesn’t want to share the spotlight with big pieces of pasta. Farro, small, nutty and slightly chewy, is a fantastic supporting cast member, while adding a heft that makes it clearly dinner-y.
I’ve tried to keep this as fuss-free as possible, but there is a bit of chopping and sautéing involved. I’ve ditched the peeling and seeding of tomatoes, which Marcia assures me she’s never done, either. (I knew we liked her.) The farro will cook in the oven, and not a separate pot, and if you run it under your broiler or in the hottest part of your oven on high heat at the end, you’ll get a crispy top that’s all I can think about.
It’s unclear to me why pasta + vegetables = a main dish, but farro + vegetables = a side, but I think of this as a main. You can put an egg on top or grill sausages on the side, too. But you won’t be disappointed it you eat it scooped onto a plate and showered with extra parmesan, as I usually do.
* just kidding, I do not pick favorites, but I always love her emails!
We’ve just wrapped up the first season of Smitten Kitchen cooking videos, and I hope you’ll get a chance to watch any you’ve missed! There are the the most recent:
6 months ago: Plush (Vegan) Confetti Cupcakes and Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Chickpeas
1 year ago: Dulce de Leche Chocoflan and Kachumber Cooler
2 years ago: Ultimate Zucchini Bread
3 years ago: Marbled Raspberry Pound Cake
4 years ago: German Chocolate Cake + A Wedding Cake
5 years ago: Blueberry Bread and Butter Pudding
6 years ago: Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles with Cucumber
7 years ago: Three-Ingredient Summertime Salsa and Blueberry Crumb Cake
8 years ago: Banana Nutella and Salted Pistachio Popsicles
9 years ago: Zucchini Bread Pancakes and Zucchini, Tomato and Rice Gratin
10 years ago: Corn Buttermilk and Chive Popovers
11 years ago: Nectarine Brown Butter Buckle and Sweet and Smoky Oven Spare Ribs
12 years ago: Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie, Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons and Sour Cherry Slab Pie
13 years ago: Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte and Garlic Mustard Glazed Skewers
14 years ago: Pearl Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes
Baked Farro with Summer Vegetables
Farro cooking times can vary. Written here is for what’s most common in stores near me, semi-pearled. The package should give you an indication of cooking time, which roughly matches the time in the oven, plus another 10 minutes. I.e. a package that says it will take 30 minutes to cook will take 30 to 40 to bake. If yours says 45 or 50 minutes, expect the oven portion to take longer here. If you’re using 5-minute farro, you might find you need less water and, of course, less cooking time. In some cases, the farro needs more water to cook; I give you an indicator in the recipe just in case.
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kernels cut from 2 ears of corn (about 2 cups)
- 1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) zucchini or other summer squash (about 4 medium), quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 medium/large roma tomatoes (about 1 pound), diced (about 2 1/3 cups)
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup white wine (optional)
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
- 1 cup (210 grams) uncooked (semi-pearled) farro (see Note)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, diced
- 2/3 cup (2 ounces) parmesan cheese, finely grated
If you have an ovenproof 11-inch or 4-quart pan with a lid, use it here. If not, use a large (11- to 12-inch) sauté pan for the stove portion and transfer it to a 3- to 4-quart baking dish for the oven part.
On the stove, heat pan to medium-high. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Let the oil warm and add corn. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and many grinds of black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Tip corn into a large bowl.
Return the pan to medium-high heat and warm 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Add half of zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is tender and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add to bowl with corn and repeat with more olive oil, salt, pepper, and second half of zucchini. This is a good time to…
Heat your oven to 375°F.
Reduce heat to medium and add another drizzle of olive oil. Add onion, 1 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes, and cook until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften and begin to form a sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, if using, and cook until the wine has reduced and the sauce is fairly thick, about 3 minutes more. Return the corn and zucchini to pan the and cook with the sauce for 2 minutes. Add basil and stir to combine.
Add farro, water, and 1 more teaspoon of salt and stir to combine. If you need to transfer this to an ovenproof dish, do it now. Stir in diced mozzarella and half of parmesan. Sprinkle remaining parmesan on top, and cover with a lid or tightly with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until farro is cooked. Cooked farro should be tender but a little chewy. If the pan is dry and your farro still seems undercooked, add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup water and return it to the oven until it reaches the right texture.
Transfer dish to your broiler, or to the hottest part of your oven (and crank the heat) and cook until browned and crisp on top, about 3 to 5 minutes under a broiler or 5 to 7 in the oven. Serve warm.
Do ahead: Leftovers will keep for 5 to 7 days in the fridge. Rewarm in a 350-degree oven. This dish should also freeze well.