Borlotti bean and farro soup

White bowl

April, from the blog The Thin Kitchen, invited me to be a guest blogger and this is what I came up with. Please check out her blog. 

Farro has been cultivated for thousands of years and is the progenitor to all wheats known today.

Its cultivation dates back at least 7000 years B.C. and it was a staple of Roman cuisine. Some food historians claim that, because of its high protein content, it was responsible for the Roman  military strength.

Farro grows in difficult conditions, in a land that is poor in nutrients, and at higher altitudes. It has been grown in the region of Garfagnana, in Northern Tuscany, for centuries, and it is still now the main agricultural product of the area, along with some of the best chestnut flour money can buy.

The climate, the soil, the altitude and the mandatory organic culture of farro of the Garfagnana area sets it apart from other farro, giving it its distinctive flavour and texture. Although you probably won’t be able to find farro from the Garfagnana region in North America, you will still be able to appreciate this traditional and popular Italian soup in your own home. You know that that has to be satisfying!

This soup is very robust and, of course, is also a complete meal. Omit the pancetta and make it vegetarian if you wish, the final product will not suffer much. You can either have it chunky, by simply mixing the beans and farro together, or have it smooth by puréing the bean mixture and topping with farro. I prefer the latter.

Minestra di farro

Minestra di farro della Garfagnana

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


100 g (3,5 oz) dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight in water
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup olive oil
60 g ( 2 oz) pancetta, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

For the farro:

3/4 cup farro
1 onion
1 rib celery, cut into thirds
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thirds
1 clove garlic


1. Drain the beans that have soaked overnight and put them in a large pot with 1 L (4 cups) of fresh water. Add the bay leaf and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down and maintain a slow simmer. Cover and cook until beans are tender, anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, depending on how old your beans are. Alternatively, cook the beans in a pressure cooker for 8 minutes and depressurize rapidly under cold running water.

2. While the beans are cooking, heat the oil over medium-low heat in a skillet. Cook the pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs until all the vegetables are soft and take a paste like consistency, about 45 minutes.

3. When they are cooked, transfer the vegetables to the pot of beans and continue cooking until the beans are completely cooked through. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

4. To cook the farro, bring water to a boil in a small saucepan with the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and a big pinch of salt. Add the farro and cook, partially covered, for 20-30 minutes, or until it is tender.

5. To finish the soup, drain the farro, reserving the cooking liquid, and discard the vegetables. Reserve.

6. You can either eat the soup chunky, simply adding the farro to the pot of beans and vegetables, along with some of the farro cooking water to get the consistency you like. The soup should be quite thick.

7. I prefer transferring the beans and vegetable mixture to a blender, and purée until very smooth, adding a bit of the farro cooking water as needed. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaf before puréing. Serve the soup in warm bowls and top with a few handfuls of farro and two or three drizzles of the best extra-virgin olive oil you have.

Minestra di farro

4 replies »

  1. Love this soup, and your photos! I like this kind of soup because you can really flavor it how you want. Although, I realize that wouldn’t make it authentic! But that’s how I love to cook!


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