Vegan farrotto with butternut squash, cashews, miso, and herbs is a delicious cold weather supper that is both nourishing and cozy.
Years of vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian living has led me to plenty of risottos at many different types of restaurants. Some of them completely outstanding, and others… not so much. I love the creamy, starchy, stick-to-your-ribs nature of the dish. It’s very comforting, but not in a way that loves you back I’d say. Despite being SO full after eating it, a part of me is always still hungry after. The first time I had a risotto made out of farro, or a “farrotto,” I knew that I had stumbled onto something that would satisfy me in all ways.
Farrotto still has that chew to it, which makes it much more interesting texturally. The flavor of the toasted grains translates right to the end too. It’s easy to turn non-rice/alternative risottos into a warm heap of cooked grains with barely a slick of saucing surrounding them though—almost like a pilaf, really. In their whole state, many alternative grains aren’t as starchy as Arborio rice. They need a little help to get to that level of creaminess that we want. This is where some special technique comes in!
“Cracking” half of the farro grains in the blender helps release the natural starch within as they cook. I wouldn’t recommend cracking all of the grains because you’ll wind up with something closer to polenta/porridge, rather than a creamy consistency with plenty of whole chewy bits still intact. My other secret: I make a saucy mixture of soaked cashews, cooked butternut squash, water, and a few flavorful additions (miso and nutritional yeast) to add to the farrotto near the end of the cooking process. This adds a few extra vitamins and some protein to the dish, but it also makes it so, so, deliciously creamy and rich.
I’ve been using the Alberta-grown farro from today’s partner for a while. Flourist sources all of their premium grade pulses and grains directly from Canadian farmers, and you can honestly taste the quality. I tend to rip through beans, lentils, and grains quite fast, and I try a ton of brands in the process. Their product is truly superior. Up until I tried their goods, I was only able to find farro from an Italian grocery store with all-Italian instructions on the box. GRAIN’s farro travels less distance for me AND it has a picture of the farmer on the box, which I can’t help but love.
Overall, the transparency with this brand is what I love the most. Canada exports a ton of pulse and wheat crops, and GRAIN sells the freshest versions possible. Their journal is a great resource, too. If you live in the US or Canada, GRAIN is running a free shipping promotion from now until December 5th, if you need to stock up for the holidays/your new year’s resolutions ;) Also, I have a discount code at the bottom of this post!
I hope that you’re all having a great week! To my USA pals, enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend and keep that calm going :)
Creamy Vegan Farrotto with Butternut Squash
- 1 small butternut squash
- 4 cups low/no-sodium vegetable stock
- 2 ¼ cups filtered water, divided
- 1 ½ cups whole farro
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup finely diced shallots (about 1 large shallot)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 sprigs thyme, leaves minced
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ⅓ cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
- 1 tablespoon mellow miso
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Cut the butternut squash down the middle lengthwise. Lay both halves, cut side down, on the parchment lined sheet. Slide the squash into the oven and roast until very tender, about 40 minutes.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the vegetable stock and 1 cup of the water and place it over medium-low heat. Cover the stock, and let it simmer gently.
- Place half of the farro in an upright blender. Grind the grains on high until they are evenly “cracked” and resemble steel cut oatmeal. Set aside.
- Make the butternut and cashew cream: Retrieve 1 cup of cooked butternut squash from the cooked halves, discarding the seeds. Save any extra squash for another use. In an upright blender, combine the squash, cashews, miso, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and remaining water. Blend this mixture on high until it’s completely smooth. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and stir. Pour the whole and “cracked” farro into the pot and stir. Keep stirring until you hear crackling sounds and there’s a toasty aroma, about 2 minutes. Pour the lemon juice and ¼ cup of water into the pot and stir until the liquid is evaporated.
- Carefully transfer the warmed vegetable stock to the pot with the farro. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and let it cook for 20 minutes. Then, stir the farrotto a bit and cook it for another 20 minutes—keep stirring it here and there at this point.
- Transfer the butternut cream to the farrotto pot and stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bring the farrotto to a boil and simmer, uncovered for another 20 minutes. You will need to stir this fairly often to avoid sputtering. The farrotto is ready when the grains look like they are lightly immersed in a creamy sauce. Whole farro grains will still have some chew to them. The farrotto will thicken as it sits, but it definitely shouldn’t be runny.
- Serve farrotto hot with freshly ground black pepper and extra thyme leaves/other greens on top.
- Recipe inspired by the cracking technique from Cook’s Illustrated, as well as recipes from The New York Times and Food & Wine.
- I wouldn’t substitute the butternut with any other type of squash. You want that sweet creaminess!
- This recipe is written with WHOLE farro. I would not try it with other versions (pearled, semi-pearled, quick-cooking etc) without significantly adjusting the amount of liquid.