Spring Pea and Farro soup

Photo: Kelly Rossiter

I'm constantly amazed by the whole grains that now appear on my grocery shelves. Spelt, kamut and quinoa are grains that were completely unknown to me a few years ago. My mother used to toss a handful of barley into her vegetable soup, but that was as esoteric as it got. Of course, we had lots of oats and wheat, but millet? Not so much. I've often wanted to try farro, but it was always prohibitively expensive. Just last week I saw a package of farro for a completely reasonable amount of money, so I grabbed it.
I was thinking along the lines of some kind of cold salad filled with lots of vegetables, but then I saw this recipe for spring pea soup and I was hooked. As usual, I made my own changes and substitutions based on what I had on hand. I'm at the cottage, so grocery shopping involves a boat ride as well as a drive into town, which means I make do. I had regular bacon rather than pancetta, and I didn't have parsley. I also didn't have enough peas, partly because I am incorrigible and eat them as I am shelling them. I ended up adding some asparagus to balance out the vegetables. I did use beef stock, but I think I would use a chicken or vegetable stock the next time I make this. While it was still a delicious soup, I think the beef flavor was a bit overpowering for the delicate flavour of the vegetables.
The recipe calls for cooked farro and includes directions for making it with really no effort involved. The recipe writer said that 1/2 cup of dried farro would make about 1 cup cooked, but I ended up with closer to 2 cups cooked. I guess I'll get that salad after all. Place farro in a pan and cover it with 3 inches of water. Boil for two minutes, then remove it from the heat. Cover it and let it stand for at least 2 hours, but no more than 3. Drain farro and it is ready to use.
This recipe is from the website Food52.

Prep time: 15 minutes  

Total time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours for cooking farro  

Yield: 4 servings

Spring Pea and Farro Soup


  • 1/2 cup pancetta, small dice
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup yellow onion, trimmed, peeled and small dice
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas
  • 1 cup cooked farro or brown rice (see note above)
  • Dash kosher salt
  • Dash fresh ground black pepper
  • Pinch flat leaf parsley, minced
Cooking directions
  1. Add the butter and the pancetta to a pan over medium heat. Render the pancetta until it just starts to get crispy while being careful not to burn the butter. You may need to reduce the heat to do this but be patient.
  2. Add the onions, season them with salt and pepper. Now continue cooking the onions, stirring occasionally, till they are soft.
  3. Add the broth and farro. Turn the heat up if you need to and bring the pot to a boil. Add the peas, taste the broth and season it as necessary. Add the parsley and cook the soup until the peas are just tender. Be careful not to overcook the peas.
  4. Serve immediately garnishing the soup with more fresh ground black pepper.