Hearty and filling, Italians love whole grains of all kinds. From corn-based polenta to farro, buckwheat, and other ancient grains, Italian cuisine has been built on a solid foundation of grains of many types for centuries, dating back to the Roman Empire.
Farro was originally cultivated in Mesopotamia and was carried back to Italy from Egypt by the Roman legion, and it has been a staple of the Italian diet ever since. A rustic form of wheat, it is sometimes better known as emmer wheat in the U.S. Like most whole grains, it’s a nutritional powerhouse packed with protein, fiber, and essential B vitamins. It’s primarily grown in Lazio and Umbria, and can be used to make a creamy risotto-like dish known as farrotto. It’s also fantastic as a base for salads or used to add heft to soups, like the traditional Tuscan zuppa di farro.
In Ancient Roman times, polenta was made with farro and was called puls. When corn made its way from the Americas to Italy in the 16th century, local farmers in the Veneto quickly recognized its potential to make the traditional porridge even better. Today, polenta is still a northern Italian staple, often made in a round-bottomed copper pot called a paiolo and stirred continuously using a long wooden spoon called a tarello. Of course, there’s more than one way to cook with polenta! In addition to the creamy, semi-soft type commonly served with meat or vegetable ragus, it can also be cooled, sliced, then grilled or broiled; sweetened and served for breakfast; or used to bake toothsome, flavorful cakes.
Whether you’re looking to expand your cooking repertoire or simply stocking your pantry, shop our hand-picked selection of the best grains from Italy and get ready to find a new favorite.