Delicious farro** soup - said to have fed the Roman Legions - now back and as simple or as complex as you wish to make it.
1 cup farro, washed in cold water and soaked for at least 6 hours, or overnight (save the soaking water)
1 ham hock*
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalks celery, diced
4 ripe, medium tomatoes, or 1 14 oz tin, or 3 - 4 TBSP tomato puree
Pecorino cheese, grated, as much as you like
Toasted French or Italian bread to serve alongside the soup
4 TBSP good olive oil, 2 for sautée, 2 to add when serving
Salt and pepper to taste
OPTIONAL SEASONINGS TO TRY (the traditional has none of these, other versions do):
Oregano or Marjoram
Cinnamon (put a stick in for final stage and remove before serving)
Heavy, covered saucepan or casserole. bowl, chopping board and knife.
IN a saucepan with a lid, cover the farro with the soaking water, add the ham hock (you can also add the hock when you add the tomatoes to the vegetables, below - this will leave the farro with a more distinctive taste), bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until not quite tender - depending on the type of farro and the soaking time, from 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure water is covering the farro, and for doneness. Set aside in a separate bowl.
GENTLY sautée the chopped onion, celery and carrot in 2 TBSP olive oil until onion is transparent - do not brown.
ADD the fresh or canned tomatoes and simmer slowly, until blended and reduced. May be covered or not, depending on how much water in the tomatoes, how much cooking they need. You can save time by using tomato puree here, if you wish.
ADD farro and ham to sautéed vegetables , mix well, just cover with water and allow to simmer, covered for about an hour, until farro is quite tender. Discard ham hock, or serve in the soup to your favorite uncle.
SERVE with a dollop of good olive oil on top of each bowl, grated pecorino cheese and toast on the side.
*ALTERNATE: If you don't have a ham hock, you can chop up a few pieces of bacon or pancetta, and sautée the bacon in the olive oil before adding the carrots, onion and celery.
**Farro ('spelt' in the USA) and its cousins emmer and eikorn are know as "hulled wheats". This means that the berry or kernel retains its hull or husk during harvest and must be dehulled prior to further processing.