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Farro Minestrone

Plenty here to love.

8 to 10 portions


About 30 minutes to chop the vegetables and 1½ hours to cook the soup


I know why I hated minestrone as a kid. It was thin and one-dimensional with a dispirited little dice of carrots, some weird clear stuff (Celery? Onions?), a regiment of green beans, and shreds of tomato listing in the bottom of the bowl. To this day, the name minestrone conjures within me all sorts of associations—and none of them good.

In truth, minestrone is a pre-Roman vegetable porridge with cracked cereal grains. The fact that it emanated from the cuisine of poverty should in no way suggest that ancient minestrone was anything like the impoverished fare of my school lunchroom days. Ancient minestrone was certainly cooked slowly on an open hearth and steeped in flavor.

The minestrone we offer here is rather grand—almost orchestral—with all manner of offerings from the autumn harvest contributing to its richly layered texture and tastes. There is creamy winter squash, buttery cannellini beans, silky spinach, and a knob of parmesan oozing winsomely into the whole, all set against the backdrop of homemeade chicken broth and savory rendered pancetta. The farro confetti we throw into the mix provides an appealing counterpoint, drinking up vegetable flavors and bouncing around in our mouths!

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a large Dutch oven, a wooden spoon, a large fine-mesh strainer or colander, a food processor, a rubber spatula, and a small bowl.

    • 1
      tablespoon olive oil
    • 3
      ounces pancetta, minced (⅔ cup)
    • 1
      medium onion, minced (1¼ cups)
    • 2
      tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1
    • 2
      cups spring or filtered water
    • 4.5
      ounces (¾ cup) dried cannellini beans, covered with 2 inches of water and soaked overnight
    • 1
      Turkish bay leaf
    • 2
      tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
    • 1
      (2-ounce) chunk Parmesan Reggiano, with rind attached
    • 4
      ounces (⅔ cup) Anson Mills Farro Piccolo
    • 2
      slender carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds (1 cup)
    • 3
      celery ribs, diced (1 cup)
    • About 1½ pounds butternut or buttercup squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (2 cups)
    • ½
      small Savoy cabbage (about 9 ounces), halved, cored, and cut crosswise into ½-inch thick slices (3 cups)
    • 4
      ounces baby spinach, washed, dried, and stemmed (6 cups, loosely packed)
    • ¼
      cup red wine
    • Fine sea salt
    • Red pepper flakes
  • for the basil purée:

    • 3
      medium garlic cloves, peeled
    • 1
      ounce (1 cup, firmly packed) fresh basil leaves
    • ½
      ounce Parmesan Reggiano, grated (2 tablespoons)
    • 2.5
      ounces (⅓ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
    • ½
      teaspoon fine sea salt
    • ¼
      teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    In a large Dutch, oven warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until crisp, fragrant, and much of the fat has rendered, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the onions and sauté until soft and golden, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and sauté 5 minutes more. Add the chicken stock and water, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Drain the beans in a large fine-mesh sieve or in a colander and stir them into the pot. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and Parmesan chunk and return to a simmer. Turn down the heat to maintain a lazy simmer, cover partially, and cook until the beans are tender except for a starchy core, about 30 minutes.


    Make the basil purée: In a food processor, pulse the garlic and process until finely chopped. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the motor running, add the Parmesan through the feed tube, and then drizzle in the olive oil. Scrape down the bowl again, add the salt and pepper, and process for a few seconds to combine. Transfer the purée to a small bowl, cover flush with plastic wrap, and set aside until the soup is ready. 


    Stir the farro in the soup and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and squash, cover partially, and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables and farro are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the cabbage, return to a simmer, and cook until the cabbage is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and red wine, cover, and let steep until the spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes. Season the soup with salt and red pepper flakes and serve hot, spooning basil purée onto each bowlful.