Thursday, September 8, 2011

Farro Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus

If given the choice, I prefer to cook alone. That sounds really bad, I know, but it’s the truth. Cooking alone is just easier for me.  I’ve never cooked in large kitchens (and I actually prefer smaller kitchens) so the precarious balancing act to share counter space and equipment, clean as I go, and generally avoid stepping on fellow cooks’ toes make what I usually love a stressful experience.

The kitchen is my personal haven, where I can take my time, work slowly but surely, and then produce something delicious. It’s time for just me, time that allows me to reflect, to be creative, to just think. Call me selfish, but cooking alone is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

For this reason, I particularly enjoy involved cooking projects or making meals that require a bit of time, and risotto is one of my favorites. The stirring is a bit like a labor of love, but the result is a perfect reward for the (admittedly minimal) effort. I’ve wanted to try risotto with something other than rice for a few years, and this farro risotto with shrimp and asparagus was the perfect introduction to this new realm of risotto possibilities.
It was the first time I’d ever cooked with farro and I was afraid that the risotto wouldn’t be creamy like traditional risotto made with Arborio rice. Was I ever wrong. Not only does the farro make a creamy risotto but its flavor is addictively nutty and its texture is toothsome and hearty. It goes wonderfully with the slightly sweet shrimp and tender asparagus, but I can’t wait to try it with fall-friendly additions like wild mushrooms and roasted butternut squash.

Tell me: do you prefer to cook alone or with others?

Farro Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus
Adapted from and inspired by The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Depending on the saltiness of the broth you use, you may need to add more or less salt when seasoning the risotto. You also may need to add additional broth to the risotto to reach the right texture. When the farro is done, it should be al dente—toothsome but tender.  I think four shrimp per person is the perfect amount so use more or less depending on the number of servings you wish to make (cook about eight shrimp per batch, though; any more and you risk overcrowding the pan and not getting a good sear on the shrimp).

Yield: 4 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil 
1 medium onion, medium-diced
1 celery rib, medium-diced
3 cloves minced garlic
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 ½ cups farro
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
16 medium shrimp (about ½ pound), peeled and deveined

 In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Add the farro to the pot and toast for about 1 minute. Begin adding the chicken broth ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently. The risotto should be kept at a simmer as more broth is added and as the farro absorbs the broth. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a simmer.

Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus. This can be done in the microwave (my preferred method, since it’s more convenient) or on the stove. To blanch in the microwave, add the asparagus to a shallow dish along with a 1/3 to a 1/2 cup of water. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, until the asparagus is tender and bright green. Drain the asparagus and set aside. To blanch on the stove, bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the asparagus is tender and bright green. Drain the asparagus and set aside. When the risotto is nearly done, add the asparagus and stir to incorporate.

After you’ve added the asparagus to the risotto, cook the shrimp. Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Season both sides of the shrimp liberally with salt and pepper. Add half the shrimp to the hot pan and cook for 1 minute. Flip and cook for 1 minute more, or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Repeat with the rest of the shrimp. Add the cooked shrimp to the risotto and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Leftover risotto will keep, stored well in the refrigerator, for up to a week.


  1. i like both - i think i cook better alone, but i love the company of others for potluckish type feast cooking

    beautiful shrimp!

  2. I'm the exact same way. Everyone always wants to help, or do something in the kitchen, and I always feel so guilty but it's like, leave me alone! But I do love eating what I make with others. ;)

    This looks great! I love risotto-esque things, farro sounds awesome. And I have been dying to make a shrimp risotto one of these days. Beat me to it! :)

  3. this looks delicious-depending on what i'm cooking is whether i like to cook alone. something that requires concentration-definitely alone. if it's something simple it's nice to cook with someone and share a glass of wine.

  4. you know - i just ate farro risotto for the first time last night at scarpetta. the texture was quite nice!

  5. I've never cooked with farro, but want to try it. It looks sort of like barley... is it similar in taste?

    Cooking alone is by far my preference. I get mom guilt sometimes because I know I ought to let my kids help in the kitchen so they will learn, but more often than not I shoo everyone out.

  6. I love the risotto - and I prefer cooking with one other person. not a kitchen full (except in our tiny kitchen!), but someone to share the experience with. you, your sister and my dad are my three favorite kitchen companions. and this photo is one of my all-time favorites.