Farro with Spinach, Lemon, Basil, and Pine Nuts

4.67 from 9 votes


I have been “going unprocessed” in stages over time. I didn’t plan out the steps, but looking back I can see that I made healthy changes in increments. I recommend focusing on one area at a time. Here’s how it worked for me:

Two years ago I subscribed to a CSA (community-supported agriculture) produce box. Every week I got a delivery of farm-fresh produce. At first I felt inundated with more vegetables than I knew what to do with. Since I didn’t want to let the good food go to waste, I got busy cooking. I had to find new recipes to cook vegetables that were unfamiliar to me. I embraced the challenge like an Iron Chef with a secret ingredient. The flavorful, fresh produce tasted so good that simple recipes came out well. Some cooking attempts didn’t turn out, but overall, we added many delicious vegetable dishes to our family dinner repertoire. Now I shop at a local farmers’ market to get my farm-fresh produce.

Dana's CSA Box

Last year I took the October Unprocessed challenge and started reading grocery labels carefully. Reading the additives article on Eating Rules really helped me understand the ingredients on labels. I learned that most unfamiliar words are processed ingredients, but not all of them have to be taboo. Understanding the labels better helped me to make better choices in the market. For example, I discovered that the chicken broth that I was buying had added sugar in it. The solution was simple– I just switched to another brand. Once I found my new brands and liked their taste, I was all set. Just make sure you allow for extra time in the market if you are in an extensive label reading phase.

This year I am making many diet changes at once as I shift to a low cholesterol diet. I have to say that it’s been hard for me to make so many big changes at once. I have to remind myself that change can be hard and that it is a process that happens over time. I’m out of my cooking repertoire. Thus, preparing meals is taking longer, and some of the food doesn’t taste great. I feel pressure when my family is sitting at the dinner table waiting to eat. Sometimes they don’t understand why I can’t cook what I usually cook. Other times they are excited about new, successful dishes. So just know that if you are struggling, sometimes I am too. I may get disappointed or frustrated, but I won’t be deterred for long. I keep trying to cook in new healthy ways. I’m determined to find more food that is healthy and amazingly tasty. Yes, the dishes must taste sensational. I have been wading through the dull food that just won’t cut it for a foodie like me. My repertoire of great unprocessed, healthy food keeps building. I share these recipes on my blog Foodie Goes Healthy.

Today I am sharing one of my successful unprocessed, healthy recipes: Farro with Spinach, Basil, Lemon, and Pine Nuts. This dish can be made as a vegan or vegetarian main dish or as a side dish. This recipe comprises all the best Italian flavors in a bowl. It’s even “kid-approved.”

Farrow with Spinach, Basil, Lemon, and Pine Nuts
These simple ingredients combine to create a satisfying, tasty dish.

For this dish I have been experimenting with several different ancient whole grains. Suffice it to say that I haven’t mastered kamut or spelt yet, but the one thing I can say is definitely pre-soak kamut and spelt overnight. Don’t believe a package instruction that says there is a “no-soak” method for whole grain kamut and spelt. The winning grains in my house for this recipe are whole grain farro, pearled farro (some of the outer bran is removed), and whole wheat orzo pasta. If you haven’t eaten farro before, it’s a whole grain that has a slightly nutty flavor and a chewy texture similar to barley. It works as a substitute for pasta or rice in many dishes. I love that the whole grain farro doesn’t need to be soaked overnight; it just cooks a little longer. Ironically, my farro package didn’t include “no-soak” instructions for whole grain farro, so I’ve included instructions below.

Overhead view of a bowl of farro with spinach.
4.67 from 9 votes

How To Cook Whole Grain Farro

By: Dana @ FoodieGoesHealthy.com
No soaking necessary.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 1 cup whole grain farro, l used Bob's Red Mill
  • 2 cups vegetable stock, I used Pacific organic low-sodium or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, omit if stock is salty


  • Follow package instructions to cook the farro, or use these no-soak instructions:
  • Put the whole grain farro, stock, and salt in a small pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce flame to low. Cook for 40-45 minutes or until the farro is tender but not mushy. For pearled farro, the cooking time is approximately 25 minutes.


Calories: 181kcal, Carbohydrates: 40g, Protein: 4g, Sodium: 765mg, Potassium: 140mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 250IU, Calcium: 14mg, Iron: 1.2mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!
Overhead view of a bowl of farro with spinach.
4.63 from 8 votes

Farro With Spinach, Lemon, Basil, and Pine Nuts

By: Dana @ FoodieGoesHealthy.com
My recipe is inspired by an orzo dish in Cooking With Too Hot Tamales by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. I like to cook farro and beans when I have more time over the weekend and store them for later use in multiple dishes during the week. This recipe comes together quickly on a weeknight if the farro and beans are made ahead. This hearty dish can be made earlier in the day and then reheated.
Prep: 7 minutes
Cook: 18 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large bunch of baby spinach, wash and leave wet (about 5 oz.)
  • Several grinds of black pepper
  • A few pinches of kosher salt
  • 1-1/3 cups cooked farro, made from 1 cup of raw farro
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Zest from 1/2 of a small lemon
  • 1 cup cooked white beans, optional Note that home-cooked flavorful beans will taste best, but canned beans can be substituted.
  • 6 large basil leaves, julienned
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, optional


  • In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more, until the onions are translucent.
  • Then add the spinach with the water still clinging to the leaves. Sauté until the spinach is wilted and just tender, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the spinach with a large pinch of salt and a couple grinds of pepper.
  • Next add the cooked farro, pine nuts, lemon zest, and cooked beans (optional) to the pan. Stir to combine, and warm up all the ingredients on the stove stirring occasionally.
  • Add the basil and parmesan cheese (optional). Taste for seasoning: add a few pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Also, taste for balance of flavors, and add a little more zest or basil if preferred. Serve warm.


Calories: 199kcal, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 99mg, Potassium: 326mg, Fiber: 3g, Vitamin A: 155IU, Vitamin C: 1.4mg, Calcium: 115mg, Iron: 2.4mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

If you just bought a big bag of farro and wonder what else you can make with it, here are some ideas:

About the Author

Dana is an experienced home cook on a quest to develop recipes that are both healthy and tasty. She’s a foodie first, so every healthy recipe must pass the delicious test. Dana loves the story behind each recipe — what inspired the dish, who gave her the recipe, and how food brings people together. Check out her blog, Foodie Goes Healthy, where every recipe has a story. You can also find Dana on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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Ellen Tresidder
June 3, 2019 7:34 pm

5 stars
I really enjoyed this dish. Easy to make, full of healthy ingredients, what’s not to love. I made a couple of changes, not big ones, but it was still delish. I used a whole onion as we really like them. I didn’t have a lemon for zesting, but lots of lemon juice cubes in the freezer, so used one equal to about 2 tablespoons. No pine nuts in the pantry, so just omitted them. Lastly, no fresh basil, so some slightly freeze dried, about 1 tablespoon. Even with all these changes it was really yummy and I’ll make this again following the actual recipe.

March 4, 2018 3:52 pm

Excellent recipe. This was my first time cooking farro, but certainly not the last. I did add cannellini beans which made it extra hearty to eat as the main course. You could virtually taste every ingredient in the recipe. Thanks for sharing.

October 15, 2013 6:37 am

Great recipe! I made some substitutions- used millet rather than farro and some chard in place of the spinach, since I already had some. Turned out fantastic.

October 6, 2013 5:24 pm

This is delicious! I used feta cheese instead of parmesan and slivered almonds instead of pine nuts. I’m going to enjoy my lunches this week. Thanks for the recipe and the introduction to farro.

Reply to  Terri
October 6, 2013 5:33 pm

Terri- thanks for coming back to let me know that you enjoyed the recipe. I love your idea of using feta in this recipe. That’s the beauty of a recipe like this– you can personalize it to your preferences or to what you have on hand. I’m happy you have lunches waiting in the refrigerator– what a great feeling.

October 5, 2013 5:07 am

I wasn’t able to find unsalted pistachios here in town but I’ll keep looking and try again. Thanks for sharing.

Reply to  Terri
October 28, 2013 9:58 pm

We take peanuts as a “driving snack” on the 200-mile trips frequently required in our business; they keep my husband awake better than coffee (well, as an adjunct to coffee . ..) and I’ve found that you can reduce the too-salty flavor significantly by rubbing the salt off with paper towels. (I discovered this out of necessity; the only “unsalted” peanuts at our regular grocery store, one week, were “dry-roasted” which meant that, for reasons incomprehensible to me, they contained several junk-food elements and preservatives.) Place a paper towel on a plate, pour in a handful of peanuts, and place another paper towel over the peanuts. Put your hand flat on top of the upper paper towel, and roll the peanuts around for 15-20 seconds.
This might help reduce the saltiness of your pistachios, too.

October 4, 2013 4:05 pm

What other kind of nuts do you think would work? Pine nuts are way too expensive. I tried pistachios in pesto but they were too salty. Walnuts or almonds?

Reply to  Terri
October 4, 2013 5:26 pm

Terri, I have 3 suggestions for you: 1. Yes, I think you can use slivered almonds. 2. You can leave the nuts out. 3. Maybe you can find better priced pine nuts in the bulk section of a market or at Trader Joe’s.

Reply to  Terri
October 4, 2013 8:17 pm

Terri, did you used salted pistachios? I’ve just recently discovered unsalted pistachios and they are delicious in pesto.

Sharon Tiano
October 4, 2013 10:52 am

What about the Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro? Would that be acceptable or is it a ‘processed’ food?
This looks so delish and I love farro so I am anxious to try it.

Reply to  Sharon Tiano
October 4, 2013 11:42 am

Sharon- great question. From a taste standpoint, I personally don’t think that the TJ “10 minute” grains have as good a texture as a cooked whole grain. From a convenience standpoint: if you want your whole grain farro to cook up in 10 minutes, just soak them overnight in the refrigerator (as per the Bob’s Red Mill package directions). I’ll let Andrew and the nutritionists explain the science and unprocessed part of your question. PS- hope you enjoy this recipe.

Reply to  Sharon Tiano
October 4, 2013 6:40 pm

I’m pretty sure – though not certain – that all they do is partly cook the 10-minute farro, and then dry it back out. If that’s the case, it would pass the kitchen test! Maybe next time you’re at TJ’s, ask them!

October 4, 2013 9:45 am

5 stars
I am loving the recipes that are coming everyday and this one is no exception. I love farro and this recipe has my name all over it. Thanks for sharing.

October 4, 2013 9:43 am

It sounds delicious, but is farro gluten free? I tried googling but it didn’t say, though it doesn’t sound like it is?
Would this be a main dish or a side dish?
Thanks ~ Tina

Reply to  Tina
October 4, 2013 10:00 am

Hi Tina!

Farro is not gluten-free – it’s an “ancient” form of wheat.

I’d bet Sorghum or Quinoa would be delicious, gluten-free substitutions, though!

And this could be either a main or a side, whatever you prefer. 🙂

October 4, 2013 9:38 am

This is absolutely a fantastic recipe. I can’t wait to make it.