Farro Soup and Longing for Lucca.

In the depths of winter, Minestra di Farro alla Lucchese, or Farro soup Lucca style, hits the spot. For me, it’s a one dish meal, un piatto unico, especially when served with good bread, olive oil and grated parmigiana. It is also a kind of Tardis soup, a little ‘time machine’ bowl of goodness, flying me back to Lucca and the Garfagnana hills nearby.Zuppa di Farro alla Lucchese

Many restaurants around Lucca list Farro soup on the menu, especially in the popular touristy places offering piatti tipici Lucchesi. After experiencing a few good ones, and some not so good, I set about copying the local version during our extended visits to Lucca back in 2008 and again in 2011. On the first occasion we rented a little apartment close to the railway station and just outside the walls of the city.  Being close to the station enabled us to choof up into the Garfagnana hills, the home of Italian farro, to spend the days visiting the villages of Barga and Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, steep hill towns that at certain times of the year seem forgotten in time.

A civilised thing- a  bar at one of the tiny railway stations in the Garfagnana. Espresso or Vino?
A civilised foyer- a bar at one of the tiny railway stations in the Garfagnana. Espresso or Vino?

The first time I visited Barga, the dark slippery cobblestoned lanes echoed with the sounds of the Celtic fiddle. It turns out that there was a Scottish musician in residence and his little studio faced directly onto the street. There are a few other Scottish peculiarities around the town-a genuine fish and chip shop on the outskirts, most unusual in Italy, and advertisements around the place about a visiting delegation from a sister town in Scotland. Many folk from Barga emigrated to Scotland in poorer times. Perhaps the landscape looked familiar. Some returned as adults, hence the strong connection. Well, Barga me!, said with an Italian/ Scottish accent.

View from our little apartment in Lucca.
View from our little apartment in Lucca.
Apartment  with a view. Lucca.
Apartment in Lucca. Zuppa di Farro on the stove.

On the second occasion, we rented a small house around 7 kms out from Lucca. La Casa dello Scrittore, a small rural house in the grounds of Casale dei Tigli, is situated close to vineyards and olive groves. The charming young man and owner, Guido, delivered beautiful gifts to us each day- magnificent olive oil, a great local red wine or two and a Buccellato, the sweet fruit studded bread of Lucca. The car was essential for forays back into Lucca or further afield into the hills and small villages, to visit restored villas and their gardens or to lunch at my favourite Italian restaurant, Antica Locanda di Sesto.

Minestra di Farro Lucchese/ Farro soup from Lucca

  • 100 g dried borlotti beans ( fagioli scritti)
  • 100 g Italian farro
  • EV Olive oil
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1-2 sticks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 potato (optional)
  • a few leaves of cavolo nero ( Tuscan Kale) (optional)
  • 1 can of tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • fresh herbs such as sage and marjoram

Preparation

Soak the borlotti beans overnight. The following morning, cook the beans in ample water, with a few herbs, until softened. Also soak the farro for an hour or so.

Farro and Borlotti for soup.
Farro and Borlotti for soup.

In a large soup pot, make a soffritto of onion, carrot and celery. Chop them finely and cook gently in olive oil. Add the garlic towards the end.

Soup base Ingredients for  a soffrito
Soup base ingredients for a soffrito

Add the farro, cooked beans, tomato paste, can of tomatoes and chopped herbs. Cover with enough water. Cook until the farro is soft and ready . You may need to add a little more water along the way. Add the finely shredded Tuscan kale, season well with salt and pepper, and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Serve with a drizzle of good oil and grated parmesan.

Daisy loves soup.
Daisy loves soup.

Many versions of this minestra cook the beans and other ingredients first, then puree half, returning them to the pot, before adding the farro to the mix. I prefer to leave the beans whole as they shed enough thickening as the soup cooks. The pureed version is extremely thick and the farro tends to catch.

Farro soup
Farro soup

37 thoughts on “Farro Soup and Longing for Lucca.”

  1. I love how food can take you back so quickly like this one… and I absolutely love the sound of the apartment you rented!! I have family in Lucca and this one’s really made me want to get back to visit soon!! Have you got your next trip planned yet?!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, you have really made me long for Italy again. And I wish I had seen this recipe before going to the grocery this morning. Never mind, I will make it this weekend or next week. I love the Italian for borlotti beans, ‘fagioli scritti’, much more descriptive of their appearance, which of course the Italians are known for ‘bella figura’ and all of that. Such a nice interlude in my busy winter day. Thank you Francesca.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you can visualise the red writing etched on the beans, which sadly disappears when they’re cooked. I think so, ‘ La bella figura’ applies as much to word choice and description as well as behaviour and appearance, I am sure. If you can’t find faro in Alice, just use barley if you are able to eat that grain.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Definite bookmark for this one. You are so right – there are some fantastic and some not so fantastic farro soups to be had in and around Lucca/Garfagnana. Can’t get there this year, but promised ourselves a trip in 2016. Antica Locanda di Sesto is on the list for multiple revisits. Meanwhile, torturing myself by following them on Facebook.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Might have to join the torture club and join on FB too. And I might meet you there in 2016 if we win tattslotto in the mean time. Our next trip will be for three months or so, to make the journey ( and the pain of flying) worthwhile.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How lovely of you to share this. Food for the soul and the body. I think I need to have Minestra di Farro alla Lucchese for lunch next week transport me away from my desk in spirit at least.
    I love the photos you included – they really set the scene 🙂

    Like

  5. I will be back in lovely Bagni di Lucca in about a month…can’t wait. All the local restaurants serve Varro soup, so I have never made it. We haven’t been to Locanda for ages. Thanks for the reminder.

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  6. Your photos are so evocative Francesca. Embarrassed to say it’s been 18 years since we spent a wonderful month in Italy. The world is so big, I just wish time and $$$ stretched further. Your soup looks perfect for this horrendous cold winter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Francis, it was a lovely view of Nottolini, nicely frames in the window. The area was quite poor, in contrast to the ritzier places in Lucca, but suited us very well.
      Farro is a wonderful ingredient and good in summer salads too. You are lucky to live in the land and hills of Farro.

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