I love whole grains – I think they’re totally overlooked as a source of plant-based protein, gut-friendly fibre and energizing minerals in a plant-based diet. So I’m excited to share this nourishing farro pilaf with a flavourful raw broccoli walnut pesto – it just might become your new favourite side dish!

hand holding fork with bowl of farro pilaf

As a plant-based dietitian, I’m here to tell you that ALL  plants are good plants. You can trust me…I literally wrote the book on how to eat more plants! Yet somehow, whole grains don’t get nearly as much good press as veggies, legumes or even nuts do. If you’re looking for plant-based recipes that are filling, high in fibre and plant-based protein, you need to get more whole grains on your plate!

Different types of farro

Allow me to introduce you to farro, an ancient grain (we’re talking Mesopotamia-level ancient) that is common in Mediterranean cuisines. What we call farro is actually farro medio, also known as emmer, one of three different types of farro. There is also farro piccolo (AKA einkorn wheat) and farro grande (AKA spelt).

Farro has a rich, nutty flavour and is deeply satisfying, with a hearty chew when cooked that will keep you feeling full!

Farro is really high in fibre and protein, with 7 grams of each per ¼ cup dry serving. Because farro is related to wheat, it contains gluten so it is not safe for someone with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Farro has yet to be evaluated for FODMAPS, but it’s relatives spelt and einkorn have so it’s probably safe to say it is relatively high in FODMAPs and should be avoided during the low FODMAP elimination for IBS.

farro pesto pilaf ingredients

Farro Pesto Pilaf Ingredients

This easy farro pilaf requires just 10 ingredients (and that includes salt + pepper!) and about 10 minutes of hands-on time. Most of the recipe time is just the farro simmering on the stove!

Put these ingredients on your grocery list:

  • Farro 
  • Broccoli
  • Walnuts
  • Fresh basil
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt + Pepper

Optional: frozen peas

hand stirring broccoli pesto in food processor

How to make this farro pilaf with pesto (step by step)

This is NOT a traditional pilaf…it’s WAY more simple and hands off! Instead of sauteing and simmering the ingredients together, this farro pesto pilaf comes together in just 3 simple steps:

  • Cook the farro until tender in abundant salted water. If using peas, toss them in during the last two minutes of cooking
  • Process the broccoli pesto (minimal chopping required!)
  • Mix the pesto into the cooked farro, add remaining basil, season and serve

Farro pilaf tips, storage, + substitutions

  • If you don’t have farro, you can absolutely substitute wheat berries, spelt or einkorn wheat just watch the cooking time.
  • Gluten free? This pesto would be delicious mixed with cooked quinoa or some gluten free pasta.
  • I like to cook my farro like pasta, because it helps me avoid having too much or too little water left when the farro is done!
  • To add a bit of extra green to the dish, I like to add green peas in the last couple of minutes of cooking but you can easily omit – the broccoli and basil are plenty green!
  • This farro pilaf will keep very well in the fridge, covered, for 3-4 days and should freeze well for up to a month (although I have yet to have enough leftovers to try it!)
  • Reheat by adding to a nonstick pan over medium heat with some water and a drizzle of oil so it doesn’t dry out in cooking.
  • I love eating pesto farro pilaf this as a lazy risotto substitute. This recipe would serve 2-3 as a light main!

Try these other higher fibre whole grain recipes

white bowl of farro and peas with gold spoon

Nourishing Farro Pesto Pilaf

This easy and nutritious farro pilaf with broccoli walnut pesto is the perfect high fibre side dish, or filling risotto substitute for those weeknights you want a simple and satisfying dinner!
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Ingredients

Farro

  • 1 cup dry farro grains
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, optional

Broccoli Walnut Pesto

  • 2 cups chopped raw broccoli
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil, divided
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Equipment

  • Food Processor

Instructions 

  • Fill a medium saucepot with water and bring to a boil on high. Add salt and farro, then reduce temperature to medium-low and cover with lid ajar.
  • Simmer until tender yet not mushy – al dente! – about 30-40 minutes. If using peas, add in the last two minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, process broccoli and walnuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Then, add ¾ cup of the basil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic and salt and process. With the motor running, start drizzling in olive oil until it resembles a thick hummus-like consistency.
  • Taste and adjust salt + pepper if desired.
  • In the pot or in a serving bowl, fold pesto into the cooked farro (and peas). Slice the remaining basil into thin ribbons and sprinkle over top. Serve.

Notes

The pesto needs to be rather thick in order to avoid excess liquid pooling in the farro. However, if you want to use this very yummy vegan pesto with pasta or as a spread, you can loosen with a bit more oil or water (pasta cooking water works too!) to your desired consistency.