A kernel with an inviting chewy texture and high-protein nutritious profile, farro is an ancient grain. Back in the day, the Italians sustained their troops with this hearty wheat as they sought to conquer the world. Originally grown in the Fertile Crescent, this grain has been found in Egyptian tombs where it was considered food fit for kings and today shows up on fancy food menus. Italian home cooks have for centuries prepared farro as a dish that travels well, keeps well, and pleases nearly everyone. It can be a substitute for risotto (notoriously finicky), served as a side dish or full meal. It absorbs water, wine, and stock equally well and is easy to flavor. Figs popped up in the supermarket this week. Italians and figs have a history almost as long as the farro history so we decided to roast them along side balsamic roasted red onions, and toss both with the farro (made with water to test if it truly could have enough flavor to hold its own as a vegetarian dish--it did!). We finished the plate with a light mustard vinaigrette, peppery baby arugula, and blue cheese crumbles--a combination that always plays in the same sandbox nicely and we found a salad we could serve at high holidays and fancy dinner parties while also keeping it in the fridge all week long for lunching and munching when time is short. Buon appetito!
cuisine Asian
difficulty Easy
season Year Round
serves 4


  • 2 cups farro
  • 5 cups cold water
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 pint figs, halved and quartered if large
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 small or 3 medium red onions, sliced into 1/4
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • 4 cups baby arugula


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Add the farro, water, and 1 teaspoon salt to a  medium saucepan. Bring the pot to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, or until nearly all the water is evaporated and the farro has a chewy, al dente texture. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside to cool. 
  3. Put the figs in an oven-safe dish. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the figs are shiny and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  4. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.
  5. On a half-sheet baking tray, toss the sliced red onions with the balsamic vinegar. Roast for 15 to 18 minutes until the onions are a soft texture with some golden edges. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk the mustard, red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper together. Slowly drizzle in 1/3  cup olive oil to make an emulsifed dressing.
  7. Toss 2/3 of the dressing into the farro and combine. Add the balsamic onions, figs, blue cheese, and arugula to the farro and toss gently with your hands. Taste for seasoning adding a bit of balsamic vinegar, more dressing, and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Transfer the salad to a serving plate or bowl and the salad is ready to eat at room temperature or put in the refrigerator for a later meal.