When we knew that a lockdown was looming last year as COVID-19 began arriving in the United States, I found myself wandering the aisles at the grocery store looking for interesting new ingredients to try, as well as necessities.
In the rice and beans aisle, I pulled a bag of farro from the shelf and wondered how I would use it. We have been trying to increase our whole grains, while reducing refined ones. An ancient unrefined wheat grain, farro is particularly popular in Italy. When cooked, the sturdy grain can be added to soups and stews, salads, grain bowls and other dishes.
After I brought it home, I hit upon the idea of using it in sausage-stuffed zucchini. We first had this dish many years ago, when Dan’s beloved Aunt Mary made it for us for dinner. She parboiled the zucchini, sliced them in half lengthwise and scooped out the inside, with each squash producing two “shells.” Aunt Mary chopped up the flesh she had removed and combined it with tomato sauce and cooked crumbled Italian sausage. She refilled the shells with the mixture, covered them with additional sauce and baked them.
Although there’s no official recipe — and it changes every time I make it — I have continued to look for ways to lighten this dish. First off, I switched from pork sausage to Italian turkey sausage, which is leaner but still a little too fatty. I have also tried making it with canned tuna, which was delicious but not the flavor I was looking for. But when I substituted half of the turkey sausage with cooked farro it was so good! Farro has a chewy texture, so it combined well with the turkey sausage and also picked up the flavors in the meat and sauce.
I’m going to continue experimenting with this whole grain.