A Risotto Recipe That Never Fails

Swap in farro for the usual rice, and you can stop worrying about overcooking. The sturdy whole grain has a delightful texture and a delicious nutty flavor that plays well with gouda, browned butter and sunflower seeds

HAVE IT YOUR WAY Use vegetable stock if you want to make this dish vegetarian. Otherwise, chicken stock will lend savory depth. Photo: Kate Sears for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Nora Singley, Prop Styling by Suzie Myers


Kitty Greenwald

May 17, 2019 3:03 p.m. ET

The Chef: Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly

Illustration: Michael Hoeweler

His Restaurant Marconi, in Montreal

What He’s Known For An intimate, family-owned restaurant anchored around an open kitchen. Ambitious yet approachable cooking prepared with a light touch.

RISOTTO IS NOTORIOUSLY easy to overcook. But not this one. The third Slow Food Fast recipe from Montreal chef Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly is actually a farrotto, made from the whole grain farro. Aged gouda, browned butter and toasted sunflower seeds complement the nutty flavor.

Stirred constantly throughout cooking along with ladlefuls of stock, sautéed shallots and a splash of white wine, this dish is every bit as lush and warming as any risotto. But the farro holds its structure better than the traditional Arborio rice. Be resolute in your stirring, Mr. Brunet-Benkritly advised, to ensure that the grains release their starch, thicken and go all creamy.

Over the course of cooking, the flavor develops, too. “Farro has great depth,” said Mr. Brunet-Benkritly. “It pairs super-well with sharp cheeses.” Hence the gouda. A final flourish of seared Romaine makes a fresh counterpoint, and Sherry vinegar brings a hit of acidity to balance the richness of the farrotto. The toasted sunflower seeds make each bite compelling.

“I like to create contrast. Otherwise you’re just eating porridge, and that gets boring,” said the chef. “Texture is what makes us go back for more.”

TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes SERVES: 4

6 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 ½ cups farro, rinsed

⅔ cup dry white wine

6 cups vegetable or chicken stock

½ pound aged gouda, grated, plus more to garnish

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

⅓ cup toasted sunflower seeds

1 romaine heart, quartered lengthwise, dark outer leaves removed

1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar

  1. In a medium pot over medium heat., combine 1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoons oil and shallots. Sweat shallots until translucent, 2 minutes. Stir in farro and wine. Once alcohol cooks off, after 4 minutes, stir in ½ cup stock and cook, stirring constantly. Once most of liquid is incorporated, repeat, adding ½ cup stock at a time, cooking and stirring until all stock is incorporated, farro grains are tender with some bite and consistency is that of a loose risotto, about 25 minutes. Stir in cheese and 2 tablespoons butter, and cook 1 minute more. Season with salt.

  2. While farrotto cooks, set a small pan over medium heat. Melt 3 tablespoons butter and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown lightly and smell nutty, about 3 minutes.

  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Once very hot, add romaine and sear on cut sides until browned and tender, 1 minute per side. Pour in vinegar and allow it to cook off, about 30 seconds. Season with salt.

  4. To serve, spoon hot farrotto into bowls and add a romaine wedge to each. Spoon sunflower seeds and browned butter over top. Garnish with more cheese.