Archive of ‘Clean Cooking for Dirt Cheap’ category

Quinoa with Apples, Peas, Coconut & Ginger Miso Sauce


Hello, everyone! I apologize for my little hiatus from posting recipes, but I can assure you it was for good reason. I have been very busy recipe testing so that I could provide all of you with a bunch of lovely meals to prepare. To make up for my absence, I want to tell you what I have been obsessing over lately, because it will benefit you as well. Are you ready???


Ginger Miso Sauce

Okay… that sounded more exciting in my head than it did once I typed it out, but let me tell you, these new sauces have been rocking my world.

I was hired to co-chef an event for 100 people for a pop-up lunch featuring the concept of “vegan bowl food.” It was sort of like a Chipotle restaurant-style set-up with an assembly line where you pick one grain, then one bean, and your toppings until your bowl was full.


The food was healthy and tasty, but in the end, it was the sauces that brought all of the flavors together. Five sauces were offered at the pop-up lunch, which my co-chef Ali and I spent a lot of time and effort creating and tweaking before the big event. All of that time making sauces inspired me to start a series with healthy recipes featuring irresistible sauces that are as easy as they are delicious.


This ginger miso sauce will be the first installment of this “Sauce Series.” I actually made this sauce with a new recipe for the first time on Sunday night and I liked it so much that I decided to make it for the second night of Passover Seder.

Quinoa tastes divine with this ginger miso sauce. I also experimented with hemp tofu in this meal, which I thought was really yummy. In order to avoid eating too much soy, I am trying to get into hemp tofu as an alternative and it is sold at health food stores. Heck, just writing about this recipe is making me crave it.


You guys keep on reading to the recipe below while I go grab a bowl. ENJOY!


Quinoa with Apples, Peas, Coconut & Ginger Miso Sauce
Quinoa Salad with Apples, Peas, and Coconut in the Ginger Miso Sauce
  • For Quinoa:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup onions or 3 shallots, diced
  • 1 Tbs. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 medium apple, diced
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 4 ounces hemp tofu (optional)

  • Ginger Miso Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons yellow miso
  • ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoons agave
  • ¼ cup brown rice vinegar
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
  2. Toast almonds in saucepan over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes, or until fragrant and beginning to brown, stirring often. Cool.
  3. Wipe out saucepan; add oil and onion. Sauté onion 2 to 3 minutes, or until translucent, stirring occasionally. Stir in ginger.
  4. Once quinoa is cooked, add onions and ginger.
  5. Remove from heat, and stir peas into cooked quinoa. Let stand 10 minutes until peas are thawed.
  6. Stir apple, coconut, hemp tofu, and almonds into quinoa mixture. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  7. Mix all the ingredients together for the Ginger Miso Sauce in a medium bowl. Pour over the quinoa and stir together .

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Rosemary Soup

Sweet potato soup

The calendar is nearing mid-March and it is still insanely cold here in Cambridge, and I, for one, am sick of it. One of the ways I find the silver lining in this seemingly endless winter weather is by making soups, which is always the best food to remove the chill from your bones. In my last blog post, I talked about getting back on track with our New Years Resolutions by eating healthier. The question of how to eat healthier and still be satisfied with your meal can be answered by making lots of soups that are high in nutrients and low in fat.

Sweet Potatoes for soup

This sweet potato, black bean, & rosemary soup can be made completely vegan and low-cal or it can be made into being a little more decadent with a dollop of mascarpone. I went to a one-hour spin class and THEN did a major circuit of weight training the day I whipped up this soup, so I treated myself to the creamier version. It was weepingly delicious. In fact, I gave a container to my boyfriend’s sister as a birthday present and she called me after the first few bites to thank me profusely.


(Makes for a great gift!)

It’s fun to have a recipe that is easy to play around with and I encourage my readers to get creative in the kitchen. Try new things with your recipes! Swap out coconut oil for the olive oil if you’d like, or even use half and half cream instead of mascarpone. Make it vegan and take out the butter and the dairy all together. Go wild because sometimes I make some of my greatest culinary discoveries when I try new things.


When this soup is finished, it’s silky and slightly sweet, but has a great smoky kick once the chipotle in adobo is added. If you’ve never used this ingredient before, you are in for a real treat. It is easy to find at most supermarkets and a little goes a long way. It is typically sold in a tiny can and I use 1-2 chipotles for this dish and then save the rest in a Tupperware in my fridge. I recommend deseeding the chipotles before using them because the seeds pack most of the heat and you don’t want that much spiciness to take over this soup.

This soup is the kind of recipe that will impress your guests and it is not hard to make at all. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you should purchase one immediately. It is in my top 3 favorite kitchen appliances and I usually give it to people who don’t have one as a housewarming gift because it comes in handy. Who wants to keep putting batches of soup into a blender little by little at a time? It’s a pain in the you-know-what, it’s time consuming, and it makes such a mess. The immersion blender is the cure-all for those issues. My friend even uses hers to make smoothies, so it is very versatile. Once you have one of these bad boys, you’ll feel like you can conquer the world– or at the very least you will be making smooth soups.

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Rosemary Soup
Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Rosemary Soup

Adapted from a Giada De Lauentiis recipe Serves 6
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Soup
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large or 6 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds (about 2 to 3) sweet potatoes, peeled, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 4 stems fresh rosemary
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ⅓ cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle in adobo, chopped (try to remove seeds)
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
  1. In a large pot, melt the butter and oil together over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes, rosemary and vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the sweet potatoes are very tender, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and remove the rosemary stems. Add the mascarpone and the chipotle in adobo. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and thick.
  5. Rinse and drain the black beans thoroughly. Add the beans and maple syrup to soup and stir.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat until ready to serve.

Kale & Chickpea Couscous

More often than not, I am very hungry when I open my apartment door and in those times, I immediately thrust myself directly to the kitchen. I am at high risk of making bad eating choices in my state of hunger, and it’s almost always when my fridge is lacking the leftovers or quick snacks necessary to whip up a quick fix. I mean, what kind of crazy person comes home with a raging appetite and still has the mental capacity to start cooking? I just want to eat RIGHT THEN AND THERE!

kale & couscous 1

Truth be told, I try to make it a point to make a few meals on a Sunday and/or Monday in order to stock my fridge and avoid becoming hangry when my fridge is empty. For those of you who don’t know this invented word, here’s a definition. Hangry: an emotion one may have when he or she is so hungry that a lack of ingested food causes anger, frustration, or any form of madness. For the sake of my loved ones, I try to avoid becoming hangry by making smart, healthy choices.

kale & couscous 2

Recently, I have been working on developing recipes that take a short amount of time to make, but still use whole-food health supportive ingredients. I thought this may be a challenge, but so far, it has been a cinch! The recipe posted below is perfect to make ahead of time or if you have the ingredients and you are HANGRY, at least it will take you less than 30 minutes to prepare something really delicious that won’t give the guilty feeling like 3 slices of reheated pizza might.

kale & couscous 3



Kale & Chickpea Couscous
Recipe type: Entree
  • 1 ¼ cup israeli couscous, uncooked
  • 2 cup kale, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 1 cup chickpeas (drained and rinsed, if using canned)
  • ¼ cup feta
  • Dressing:
  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon agave
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  1. Place couscous in a pot with a drizzle of olive oil and toast on medium heat for one minute. Add water and cover pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until couscous is tender or water has evaporated, about 7 minutes.
  2. While couscous is cooking, whisk together oil, vinegar, agave, and minced garlic.
  3. Once couscous is done cooking, toss with kale. Let it sit until kale is slightly wilted. Add in dressing, feta, and chickpeas. Toss all together and serve.

Lemon Lentil Soup

I am back after a little hiatus from all of my travels during and after the holidays. Well… almost back. Currently, I am vacationing in Park City until Saturday, but  AFTER THAT I will be back in my kitchen in Cambridge so I can post recipes left and right. If you haven’t been out west and seen this part of America, you really should. I am in awe with how our country is so diverse and beautiful. Cooking 8,500 feet above sea level is a different ball game and things have to be prepared a little differently. Luckily, there is someone else cooking dinner for the majority of this week, so I am on a rare break.

In an effort to stick to New Year’s Resolutions of eating healthy and shedding a few pounds, I am posting this lemon lentil vegan soup in case your goals are the same as mine. When I was working for Marcus Samuelsson I posted this recipe around this time of year and I have tweaked it a little since then. I learned how to make it in culinary school and it is outrageously delicious. Did you know that red lentils turn yellow when they cook? Lentils are small but a nutritionally mighty member of the legume family. Compared to other types of dried beans and legumes, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare.

Lentils are fiber All-Stars because they contain a good amount of cholesterol-lowering fiber and are beneficial to helping manage blood sugar disorders. This is because their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal.

Sounds good, right? Well, it gets better because there is far more to gain from little lentils. They also provide good to excellent amounts of six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein- all with virtually no fat.

Try out this recipe because this tiny nutritional giant fills you up – not out. The soup is even better the second day, after the spices have more time to mingle.

Lemon Lentil Soup
Lemon Lentil Soup Recipe adapted from Jenny Mathau and The Natural Gourmet Institute
  • 2 Tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 3 medium onions, small diced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ heaping teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of chili powder
  • 2 cups red lentils, washed and drained
  • 8 cups stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, zest into thin strips (use a chap lemon zester) + the juice
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • lemon slice for garnish (rounds)
  • ½ bunch parsley, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  1. In medium pot, heat coconut oil on medium-high heat until it melts.
  2. Sauté onion and garlic in oil until soft (about 5-7 minutes). Add cumin, curry, chili powder and saute another minute.
  3. Add lentils, broth, bay leaves and lemon zest.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat, and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour or until lentils are tender.
  5. Add lemon juice and salt. Cook a few minutes more. Remove bay leaves.
  6. Divide into bowls and garnish with thinly sliced lemon rounds and chopped parsley.
  7. Drizzle olive oil on top and serve.

Pumpkin Quinoa Breakfast Parfait

Pumpkin Quinoa Breakfast Parfait_2

During the holidays it’s easy to fall off track and into unhealthy eating habits. So, like the last recipe I posted, this one features quinoa, one of my favorite grains, and a main ingredient that won’t contribute to that same New Year’s resolution where you swear to fit into that pair of jeans from high school. My last post was a savory take on quinoa, but this recipe is sweet instead! This might sound strange the first time you read it, but quinoa makes a sensational breakfast food.

This recipe came to fruition because I had leftover pumpkin pie filling from a snow day pumpkin spice latte I made over the weekend. It got me thinking about how I can use the rest of the pumpkin in a really healthy breakfast. Mix it with oatmeal? Maybe. But I wasn’t in the mood for something so piping hot. I looked around the kitchen until I saw the bag of quinoa, and an illuminated lightbulb may or may not have appeared above my head. Why not combine the two?

There was also a little bit of goat milk yogurt in my fridge, as well. Recently, I have been trying to wean myself off of cow milk products and replace them with either vegan options or goat milk. The average cow in this country is given growth hormones, antibiotics, GMO feed, vaccinations and are exposed to toxic conditions,  so it’s no surprise that many humans experience negative effects from consuming cow milk. Many people who are allergic to cow milk products or who suffer from lactose intolerance may be able to enjoy goat milk yogurt.

Goat’s milk is a much healthier alternative, especially when it is raw and organic. Goats produce about 2% of the global milk supply and it is interesting that most of the populations of people who consume goat milks cite a lower incidence of allergies and digestive complaints. Yogurt cultures convert lactose into lactic acid, making yogurt easier to digest than milk. Also, lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus can help to restore normal intestinal flora after antibiotic therapy.

Bottom line: If all you have is Greek yogurt in the house don’t sweat it because it will still be delicious, but try out goat milk yogurt sometime when you get a chance.

Pumpkin Quinoa Breakfast Parfait_1


Pumpkin Quinoa Breakfast Parfait
Serves: 2
  • 2 cups goat or greek yogurt
  • ¾ cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
  • 1 teaspoon flaxseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup, plus drizzle (optional)
  • ¼ cup dry quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pecans for garnish
  1. Prepare quinoa according to directions. While cooking, mix yogurt, pumpkin, pumpkin spice, flaxseed oil, teaspoon of maple syrup together. Fill the bottom of 2 glasses with ½ cup of yogurt pumpkin mixture into glass.
  2. Once quinoa is finished, season with cinnamon and let cool for 10 minutes. Once cool, add ½ cup quinoa to parfaits, then top with remaining greek yogurt.
  3. Sprinkle with pecans and drizzle with maple syrup.

White Bean & Mushroom Grain Soup

I wish you could smell the intoxicating aroma filling my apartment right now. Wouldn’t it be so great if we could smell delicious recipes through the computer?! Maybe one day… but until then, you’ll have to just trust me when I say that the smells in here are divine. There is no better smell than garlic and olive oil on the stove. Maybe the smell of the wood burning in the fireplace on a cold December day or the smell of a newborn baby’s head (myeditorbrothertoldmethatwascreepyandwantedmetodelete).

Alas, both come second and third place to the smell that is coming from my kitchen.

Mushroom Orzo Soup 4

Today, I have put a spin on a soup that I grew up eating my whole life. It is perfect for this time of year, not only because it is hearty and warms me right up on a cold day, but also because it is figure friendly and boy do I need more of those kinds of dishes during the holiday season!

Mushroom Orzo Soup 6

The swimsuit that I will be wearing in less than a month was one of the inspirations for making this meal. On this day in one month I will be on a beach somewhere in Costa Rica, so I am hoping that this nutrient-filled soup will help counteract all of the Christmas cookies I have been eating thanks to a cookie swap I was involved with earlier this week!

Mushroom Orzo Soup 1

I use baby bella mushrooms for this recipe, but if I have shiitakes in the fridge, I throw those in as well. The last time I made this recipe, I used orzo pasta as the grain, but I often swap that with barley, farro, or even quinoa.

Mushroom Orzo Soup 3


Mushroom Orzo Soup 2


Mushroom Orzo Soup 5

Put in a dollop of pesto before consumption and you’ll feel like you died and went to heaven.

White Bean & Mushroom Grain Soup
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 6
  • ¼ cup really good olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • ½ lb mushrooms, preferably cremini or baby bella, stemmed and sliced thinly (Portobellos work too)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ cup dry orzo or barley or whatever grain you are using
  • 1 16-oz can white beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Dollop of pesto (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium head. Add the onions, garlic and the carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the onions start to soften.  Add the sliced mushrooms and season with salt. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes.
  2. Pour in broth and bring to a boil; then lower the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, in another pot, bring salted water to a rapid boil and cook your grain of choice according to the package.
  4. Then, add the white beans to the soup and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until beans are heated through. Season with salt to taste. Add the parsley, serve with Parmesan.

Stewed Red Lentils & Tomatoes

Who else feels like they gained 350 pounds after all of these holiday festivities? Despite willing myself into exercising several times over the long weekend, the urge is real to reach for the stretchy pants that are reserved for days like these. While butter and alcohol are the foundation for a great Thanksgiving weekend, they are also the first step toward a frown and maybe a few tear drops falling on your bathroom scale. Thanksgivukkah Chef This year, Thanksgiving and Chanukah collided and it was a blast. Thanksgivukkah was a once-in-a-lifetime event, so my family and I went all out. My Aunt Connie sculpted a "menurky", which is exactly what it sounds like... a menorah that is shaped like a turkey. We had a full menu for Thanksgivukkah that was carefully planned for weeks by my Aunt Ginny and the rest of the gang.   menurkey IMG_9420 IMG_9435 IMG_9425 We couldn't even fit everything on the menu and I didn't even mention the desserts! Oy vey... It was quite a feast, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it revolves around great food, beverage, and company. I needed to make a healthy & delicious recipe for dinner last night to pull me out of my gluttonous ways. I am never willing to sacrifice high-quality taste when I cook because my priority is to enjoy what I am eating! That's why I decided to make Stewed Red Lentils and Tomatoes for dinner. It is the perfect dish right now because it is healthy, hearty, full of flavor and easy to prepare.   IMG_9369 I originally found this recipe from one of my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and then again from one of my favorite recipe blogs, I have made this recipe many times and it never fails to impress me and my fellow diners. IMG_9370 Last week The Dirt on Vegetables was invited to participate in a cooking demo at Williams-Sonoma at the Natick Mall! Cooking in their kitchen was fun I was honored that the smell of my food wafting through the air brought in so many supportive and hungry customers. Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes was one of the recipes that I sampled and it was a huge hit! I promised that I would post this dish, so here it is… I use red lentils, but green lentils, french green lentils, or brown lentils would work as well. The recipe calls for 1 (28-ounce) can of whole tomatoes, but a can of tomato sauce can be substituted. IMG_9364 Stewed Red Lentils & Tomatoes 3
Stewed Red Lentils & Tomatoes
Stewed Red Lentils & Tomatoes Author: Michele Wolfson Adapted mostly from The Barefoot Contessa at Home & Smitten Kitchen
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 2 cups large-diced yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 2 cups large-diced sweet potatoes
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes OR 1 (28-ounce) can of tomato sauce
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and the sweet potatoes and cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
  2. Meanwhile, place the canned plum tomatoes, including the juice, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse several times until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped. If using tomato sauce, just pour the can into the pot. Rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there are no stones in the package.
  3. Add the tomatoes, lentils, broth, curry powder, thyme, salt and pepper to the pan. Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Check occasionally to be sure the liquid is still simmering. Remove from the heat and allow the lentils to sit covered for another 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, season to taste and serve hot.

Portobello Mushroom Reduction with Sweet Potatoes & Rigatoni

Have you ever looked in your fridge and had the daunting feeling that you have to use up at least seven things before they go bad? I was digging around in my fridge a few nights ago when I came across some produce that I had to eat soon or else they would reach the end of their vegetable lifespan, and I would essentially be throwing money away in the garbage, which I hate.

IMG_8639 Click on pic to watch it cook!

I had made a variation of the squash, mushroom and white bean quesadillas with sweet potatoes, and Portobello mushrooms, so I knew that those would be the star ingredients for the evening. Sometimes some of the tastiest creations are formed in the kitchen when you least expect them to and this was one of those times.  The dish I created was simple to make but rich in flavor… Read more about it below!




Portobello Mushroom Reduction with Sweet Potatoes & Rigatoni
This can be a nice weekday night dinner since it's easy to prepare and it is really filling. Vegetarians will thank you for making them such a rich and flavorful meal without the heaviness of something creamy or highly caloric. Omnivores will thank you too. Nobody is going to be missing the beef Bourguignon tonight!
Cuisine: Italian
Recipe type: Pasta
  • Serves 6
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 pounds portobello mushrooms, in ¼-inch slices
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces (12 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1lb rigatoni
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 4 ounces semi-soft goat cheese
  1. Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over high heat. Cook the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.
  2. Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil and butter. Toss the sweet potatoes, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan. Cook for 8 minutes or until nearly tender, gently stirring occasionally. Add the onion; cook about 5 minutes more or until potato and onion are tender and lightly browned, gently stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute.
  3. Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.
  4. In 6-quart Dutch oven cook pasta according to package directions; add spinach one minute before pasta is ready to drain.
  5. Add pasta and spinach to potato and mushroom mixture, tossing gently until spinach is just wilted. Add goat cheese and toss gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Farro in a Fresh Tomato Sauce with Basil & Pecorino Romano


Farro in a Fresh Tomato Sauce with Basil & Pecorino Romano Recipe

The first time I pitched this dish to one of my clients and told her that she and her family would fall in love with a steaming dish of farro in a fresh tomato sauce she looked at me and simply asked, “farro? Really? You’re going to use your fresh tomato sauce on FARRO?”

As I picked fresh tomatoes from my garden with my cousins over Labor Day Weekend, I knew I had to make this dish for my family that day. I told them of my plan, and right away someone responded, making eye contact with the juicy red tomatoes, “maybe wait to test this recipe when these are no longer in season and you are recipe testing with canned tomatoes.” I knew that they were being crazy and that it was time to bring this comeback grain back to my dinner table.

My 2 year old cousin Jackson enjoys our garden tomatoes.


As a chef and a food lover, I adore farro for its roasted nutty flavor, delicate chew, and versatility. First of all, I believe that one of the reasons farro has a leg up on most grains is because it’s Italian and has more of a sexiness to it than most of the others (How can farro be sexy? Didn’t I mention that it is Italian?) It is definitely sexier than say… kasha (no disrespect to my fellow Jewish peeps… Jews are sexy too in spite of kasha varnitchkes). After all, this is the first farro to rule the Jews since Moses led them out of Egypt.  Sorry, I tried not to add that but I couldn’t help myself.

So what exactly is farro? According to Ancient Grains for Modern Meals (Ten Speed Press, 2011), by Maria Speck, who writes that the term farro is “commonly used when referring to three ancient wheat varieties first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent and still grown in Italy: farro piccolo (also known by the German einkorn), farro medio (also known as emmer, the Hebrew word for mother), and farro grande (also known as spelt).” With a higher fiber and protein content than wheat that is more commonly used, farro is also especially rich in magnesium and B vitamins. Farro was actually eaten in ancient Roman times and was a grain for the poor. It’s funny that some of the healthiest and most delicious of foods were once only for the peasants.

Farro comes whole/unpearled, prelato, or pearled and also semi-perlato, or semi-pearled, meaning it retains some, but not all of its bran and nutrients. Many recipes call for semi-pearled farro since it eliminates the tedious soaking process and puts your dish on the table a lot faster.

I am urging you to go out and get some locally grown tomatoes while the gettin’ is good, because it won’t be long before that window closes and you’re left with colorless, tasteless, sad tomatoes that you can inconveniently find at your grocery store.

This dish is simple to make and people may think you’re fancy (in a good way) because you made farro instead of typical, run of the mill, pasta. There are so many things you can do to this dish to add your own little twist! You can add a poached egg on top! You can add beans or even peas at the end. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with! This recipe is only slightly tweaked from


Also, a quick shout out to my little brother, Matthew who turns 23 today (and isn’t technically so little as he stands at 6’3” and has a size 15 shoe, but he will always be “little” to me). He is my greatest editor and the best gift my parents could have ever given me. This post is dedicated to you.

“Editor’s note: Thanks, Michele!”

Farro in a Fresh Tomato Sauce with Basil & Pecorino Romano
Farro in a Fresh Tomato Sauce with Basil & Pecorino Romano Author: Michele Wolfson but tweaked from As mentioned above, pearling describes how much of the exterior bran is removed, but some packages are not labeled. If your package says it will cook in less than 15 minutes, it's most likely pearled; if it takes around 30 minutes, it’s probably semi-pearled. And if it takes 60 to 80 minutes, it is whole or unpearled. This recipe works for all three versions, but in this recipe I used semi-pearled farro. In any event, if your package gives you a different cooking time than the 30 minutes suggested below, use those instructions instead. Yield: Serves 6 as a hearty side and 3-4 as a main course
  • 2 cups semi-pearled farro + water seasoned with salt (see Note above for farro types)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion thinly sliced (read below in method)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1½ to 2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks (read below in method)
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
  • Up to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Few basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
  • Grated pecorino romano cheese, for serving
  1. Soak farro for 5-7 minutes in water while you prepare your other ingredients.
  2. Cut onion in half and then in half again, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons. Press or mince garlic cloves as well. Quarter tomatoes and then slice each quarter in half.
  3. Go back to your farro and cook it in a small pot according to package.
  4. In a large pot add your oil and put heat on medium. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic for one minute and watch so it doesn't brown.
  5. Add tomatoes and add salt, pepper flakes (to taste) and set a timer for 30 minutes. Bring uncovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.
  6. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but with a delicate chew), seasoned and the cooking water should be almost completely absorbed. If needed, cook it for 5-7 additional minutes, until farro is more tender. Add farro to the fresh tomato sauce.
  7. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Scatter with basil and pecorino romano. Enjoy!

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