Farro & butternut squash bake is so delicious with it’s creamy butternut squash, nutty farro and salty bacon- the flavors and textures balance perfectly and it adds a nice pop of color to your cold weather dinner table!
Have you had farro yet? I first tried it a couple of years ago when Hannah brought a farro salad to our weekly dinner. I was instantly in love with the chewy texture it added and it’s slightly nutty flavor. Turns out it’s also really good for you, too, so win-win!
This is just barely tweaked from Ina Garten’s recipe and it’s equally suitable as a side dish (I like it with crispy roasted chicken thighs and a simple salad) or as the main event for a “plant-forward” dinner. It definitely falls under the comfort food category and leftovers are excellent with an oozy egg on top!
About the ingredients
- Farro is an “ancient grain”, which basically means that, unlike many modern grains, it hasn’t been genetically modified or altered. It’s high in fiber, protein, calcium, zinc and magnesium. It’s great for your heart and your brain and aids in digestive health.
- Most of the farro you’ll find in grocery stores is pearled which means the bran has been removed. Pearled farro requires a shorter cook time than unpearled. If you have unpearled farro you might want to soak it overnight before using because it takes longer to cook.
- To prep butternut squash cut a small piece off of the bottom and stem ends so that your squash will sit flat. Use a vegetable peeler to remove all of the hard peel. Now cut lengthwise in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut each half into 1″ slices and then cut each slice into cubes.
- If you have more squash than your recipe calls for it freezes beautifully! Spread your cubes out evenly on a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer and freeze for a couple hours, until solid. Slide cubes into a freezer bag, squeeze out excess air and keep in the freezer until you need them again. Freezing does change the texture and it doesn’t hold up to roasting as well as fresh. I prefer to use previously frozen squash in recipes where it will be pureed, like soups and sauces.
- Use good quality, thick cut bacon for this. Don’t skimp on the bacon.
- Use bone broth if you have it!
You can multitask by cooking your bacon and your casserole at the same time. Do check the casserole once while it’s baking to see if you need to add more liquid. I usually end up adding another 1/2 cup. You don’t want it swimming in broth, but you also want to make sure it doesn’t dry out.
Make it your own
Part of the fun of cooking is taking something tried and true and making it your own. The key to doing this successfully is making it the way it’s written the first time so that you understand how it’s meant to turn out. Then think about what you might tweak the next time without altering what you loved about the original.
There are some things that, if altered, would have a major effect on the final dish. For this recipe the ratio of liquid to grains, the type of grain and the time/temp it bakes are things I wouldn’t change. But other things like the kind of cheese or herbs used or even adding other vegetables or using a different kind of broth are flexible. I’ve made this with goat cheese in addition to the parmesan (I keep the parm because it makes a nice crust on top) and I think gruyere would be really nice, too.
I hope you enjoy this comfort food side dish as much as we do!
- 6-8 slices thick cut bacon (applewood smoked or peppered is very good here)
- 3 cups cubed butternut squash
- 1 1/2 cups (1 large) yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (3/4 tsp if using dried thyme)
- 3/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese or 1/2 cup grated
- 3 cups good chicken stock (I use bone broth)
- 1 1/2 cups pearled farro
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 and arrange racks so that there's enough room for your dutch oven on one rack and a baking sheet on another.
- While oven is preheating peel, seed and cube your squash into 3/4-1" cubes, chop your onion and thyme, mince your garlic and shred or grate your cheese.
- Lay the bacon out on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven 20-30 minutes, until browned but not completely crispy. When done, chop bacon into medium size pieces and set aside.
- While bacon cooks, heat oil and butter in a medium size dutch oven and saute the onion for 6-8 minutes, until tender and just starting to brown. Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and continue cooking and stirring 1 minute more.
- Add the chicken stock and farro, stir and bring to a simmer.
- Once it simmers place the squash on top of the farro mixture, without stirring in, cover and place inside oven for 30 minutes.
- Check once during cooking and add more stock if needed. You don't want all of the liquid to be absorbed before the farro is cooked through. I usually end up adding another 1/2 cup or so.
- After 30 minutes sprinkle bacon and cheese on top of squash and put back in the oven, uncovered, 15-20 minutes, until farro and squash are tender and cheese is melted.