‘It is not the result of an alchemy but the result of the products coming from vegetable gardens, farmyards, clear skies, fresh and clean water, hands used to rolling out the pasta dough; in one word, the treasure of Umbria. Umbria is the starting point of the journey we take to look for all these products born from the love for the good things. We prepare the food with love, joy and passion for your and our sake, because cooking is a way to bond with the rest of the world and to show our best part’, so says William Ventura, proprietor and chef of the historic and beautiful Medioevo restaurant which quietly resides at the very heart of the holy hill-town of Assisi in Umbria. I couldn’t agree with him more. More and more, I find myself avoiding restaurants with long, fanciful and complicated menus simply because my heart desires straight-forward and natural dishes created from a few brilliantly fresh ingredients that producers and chefs alike love and respect. This philosophy resides at the very heart of Italian cooking and this salad – which is inspired by one I first tasted at Medioevo – is a perfect example of that. Farro is an ancient grain that comes in whole, semi-pearled and pearled varieties; it’s a much tastier version of wholewheat with a chewy texture that makes it the perfect base for the more robust salads we continue to enjoy well into the summer.
200g farro, rinsed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
2 tbsp lemon juice
80ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
Half tsp of chilli flakes (optional)
200g very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
40g of mixed herbs such as parsley, oregano, basil and chives, finely chopped
2 large balls fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, drained and roughly torn (you can also use six of my Italian herb-marinated bocconcini)
Slivers of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnishing
Fresh pesto, for garnishing (you can also use basil oil)
How I make it
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the farro and a generous grind of sea salt. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for around 30-40 minutes (according to the instructions on the packet) until the grains are tender but still retain their bite. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and chilli flakes (if using). Season to your to taste.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked farro, tomatoes, herbs and the dressing. Tumble it all onto a beautiful serving plate. Tear the mozzarella or marinated bocconcini over the top, garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of fresh pesto (or basil oil).
Enjoy straight away with some crusty bread and a glass of Montefalco rosso.