With every Thanksgiving comes stuffing galore, which also means plenty of butter and bread all around. For a healthier stuffing alternative, try mixing it up with some whole grains; we love farro—an ancient superfood grain well-loved in Italy—for its nutty taste and firm chewy texture, and also its immense health benefits.
An original and minimally processed grain, farro came before rice, barley, wheat and rye and has been around for thousands of years. A lot like spelt, farro is full of fiber, vitamins B and E, protein and immune-boosting magnesium. It also contains more fiber and protein, and significantly less gluten than wheat.
Fennel is also chock-full of health benefits, featuring unique phytonutrients that may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties. High in fiber, fennel can help with cholesterol. It’s also high in potassium, which helps with lowering high blood pressure, and folate, a B vitamin that can help reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.
For me, part of easy cooking is flexibility with ingredients, which is why I created this farro stuffing recipe with plenty of leeway. The worst thing is feeling like you’re missing one or two “key” ingredients for a recipe, which usually discourages me from trying the recipe at all, don’t you agree? In this recipe, fennel can easily be substituted with celery; carrots can be left out; your preference of stock and wine can be used; and the almond and parsley garnish can be omitted or replaced your favorite nut and garnishing green.
I love using local and in-season ingredients and after a recent rainy day trip to the farmers’ market, I came home with the ingredients featured in this recipe. If you like earthy and woodsy taste profiles, the nutty heartiness of the farro and the earthy pungent flavors of wild mushrooms combine deliciously with the aromatics of fennel, sage and thyme.
Forest Farro Stuffing with Fennel, Wild Mushrooms and Sage ( Serves 6-8 )
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 cups stock (any kind you have on hand)
1 ½ cups uncooked farro
1 bay leaf
1 ¼ cups diced fennel bulb (about 1 medium-large
2 ½ cups diced onion
1 tbsp salt*
½ tbsp freshly ground pepper
2 ½ cups sliced chanterelle or cremini mushrooms
½ cup diced carrots
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh sage
½ cup dry wine (red or white)
1 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp almond slivers
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups of the onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook until onions are golden brown, stirring occasionally.
- Add 3 cups stock of choice, farro, bay leaf and ½ tsp salt* to cooked onions. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until farro is al dente and liquid is reduced to about ⅓ cup. Remove from heat.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and oil an 8 x 8 glass or ceramic baking dish.**
- Heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in a medium-large skillet over medium-high heat. Add wild mushrooms, fennel, carrots, thyme, sage and season with remaining ½ cup of onions and ½ tsp salt and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms are lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add wine; cook 3 minutes or until liquid evaporates.
- Combine mushroom mixture with farro mixture and spoon into oiled baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Let it cool for 5 minutes, garnish with almond slivers and parsley and enjoy!
*If the broth you are using is fairly salty already, refrain from adding the salt to the farro in step 2.
**Instead of using the baking dish, you can, of course, use your turkey! Just stuff the turkey 30 minutes before it should be ready.
Other spa recipes we love for Thanksgiving dinner:
Holiday Eating Tips + Spicy Peppered Sweet Potatoes Recipe
Rancho La Puerta Recipe: Grilled Figs with Creamy Honeyed Ricotta and Almonds
The Lodge at Woodloch Recipe: Apple Parsnip Soup
Green Mountain at Fox Run: Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie
Rancho La Puerta Recipe: Squash-Apple Soup with Thai Red Curry
Green Mountain at Fox Run Recipe: Baked Apples with Fresh Figs and Vermont Maple Syrup