We recently spent some time on a culinary exploration of Umbria, Italy's most central region. Known as the green heart of Italy, Umbria is the only Italian region without a coastline.
Based in Spello, a charming walled town rich in history yet not inundated with tourist, we were able to experience Umbria more on a local level.
Our days consisted of visiting macellerias (butcher), pasticcerias (pastry bakery) and panettieres (bread bakery) in nearby villages to gather ingredients for the evening meal.
In Umbria you can expect meals that are simple and rely heavily on seasonal produce, regionally raised game meats and local wines. You can also expect to see a lot of farro, both on restaurant menus and on store shelves. Farro is an ancient grain with a slightly chewy texture that tends to absorb the flavor of whatever it cooks with. For this reason it works well in soups and stews.
Umbrian Farro & Swiss Chard Soup
1 medium clove garlic, lightly crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
2 fresh sage leaves
1 celery rib, chopped
1 red onion, minced
1 1/2 cups farro
2-3 medium carrots, sliced into rounds
4 cups roughly chopped swiss chard
12 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
In soup pot, warm the garlic in the olive oil over low heat until fragrant. Add celery & onion, cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add herbs and carrots cook about 5 minutes.
Add faro, swiss chard and stock, simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the farro is tender but still a little chewy. Salt and pepper to taste.