Squash and sage and some sort of salty pork are hallmark flavors for me this time of year and this dish provides all of it in one comforting bite. It’s my take on risotto – swapping out the Arborio rice for nutty, toasty farro. Farro is a whole grain with a terrific texture. It’s great to add to soup, use as the base of a grain salad or just serve as a simple side dish as you would rice or quinoa. I think it creates a more rustic version of risotto that’s a little more filling. I showed the team at Minnesota Live how to make it and when my (always hungry) photographer Bill tried a bite, he asked, “have you made this before?” The question came with good reason – last year at about this time I shared a similar dish – containing sausage and orecchiette pasta instead of the bacon and farro. I hope both meals make it onto your table this fall!
1/2 lb thick cut, good quality bacon, chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups farro
1 medium sized butternut squash, cut into cubes (about 6 cups of squash)
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
6 cups chicken stock or bone broth
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c heavy cream
10-12 sage leaves
1 tsp butter
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and arrange the squash in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper. Toss to combine and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes – until tender and browning on the edges. Remove from oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, add the bacon to a large skillet or shallow dutch oven and set to medium heat. Cook until bacon is crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside in a small bowl. Leave the fat in the pan and add the onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is translucent – about 3 minutes – and add the uncooked farro. Stir to coat in the fat and toast for about 2 minutes. Then start adding the stock 1 cup at a time. Stir after each addition and add the next cup when the farro has almost absorbed the liquid. Continue adding stock until the farro is tender but not mushy. Add the cream, parmesan, squash and bacon into the pan and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed (remember the bacon and cheese are salty on their own). In a small skillet, melt the butter and add the sage leaves. Fry until crisp and top risotto with them. Add more cheese on top if desired and serve!