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Pep it up with a big-batch grain salad that's easy to make and even easier to eat

"Home with the Lost Italian" columnist Sarah Nasello shares her recipe for a nutritious, delicious farro salad that is filled with pizza flavors.

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Filled with pizza flavors, Sarah's Pepperoni Farro Salad with Garlic-Oregano Vinaigrette is a healthy and delicious way to enjoy eating grains without sacrificing flavor.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum
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FARGO — I love a good big-batch salad — the kind I can make on a weekend and enjoy throughout the week without feeling guilty. This Pepperoni Farro Salad with Garlic-Oregano Vinaigrette is a healthy, delicious and creative way to enjoy the nutrition that comes from eating grains without sacrificing flavor.

For this recipe, I used a semi-pearled farro, which means that the grain has been lightly scored to help release its starches when cooking. This gives the grain a wonderfully chewy, yet still crunchy texture that works well with a variety of ingredients.

An ancient grain of the wheat family, farro is a staple in the Italian diet and an excellent source of protein, vitamins and fiber. The high protein and fiber content help to promote a feeling of fullness that benefits a healthy diet.

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Farro is an ancient grain of the wheat family and a staple in Italian and Mediterranean cuisines.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

However, not everyone is keen to eat a salad with a grain as the main ingredient. Thankfully, there is a workaround to this, and the keys to a good grain salad are to first choose a delicious grain — in this case, farro — and second, to make it taste as delicious as possible.

With this in mind, I never cook farro in plain water as directed to on most packaging. Instead, I use a combination of water and chicken stock, and always include a bay leaf and touch of salt to create a pilaf. In fact, I do this for all grains, including rice, and it makes such a difference when it come to depth of flavor.

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I like to choose a medley of no more than six ingredients that complement each other without overpowering the grain. For this recipe, I took inspiration from a variety of classic Italian pizza ingredients, including pepperoni, fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers and Kalamata olives, and added a bit of celery to give it a lively crunch.

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A medley of Italian pizza-inspired ingredients round out this healthy, big-batch salad, including pepperoni, Kalamata olives, fresh mozzarella cheese and roasted red peppers, with celery added to give the salad a lively crunch.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

To continue the pizza theme, the salad is tossed with a garlic-oregano vinaigrette made with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, Parmesan cheese, dried oregano, garlic, crushed red peppers and seasoning. This zesty dressing has a universal appeal that would work well with most salads, or even just for dipping bread, and it will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

The farro takes about 45 minutes to cook, including the time it takes to bring the liquids to a boil. Once done, I remove the farro from the burner and let it sit for five minutes, then I drain the liquid and remove the bay leaf.

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The cooked farro is tossed with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette while still warm, which helps the grain to absorb the flavors.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Next, I toss it with a couple teaspoons of the vinaigrette, and the warmth from the grain helps it quickly absorb the flavors. After the farro has cooled somewhat, I toss it with the pizza-inspired ingredients and the remaining vinaigrette.

Easy to make and even easier to eat, this big-batch Pepperoni Farro Salad with Garlic-Oregano Vinaigrette packs a powerful punch of flavor and nutrition into every bite.

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The salad components are tossed with Sarah's zesty Garlic-Oregano Vinaigrette.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Pepperoni Farro Salad with Garlic-Oregano Vinaigrette

Serves: 4 to 6

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Ingredients for the farro:
1 cups farro
1 14.5-ounce can chicken stock
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons garlic-oregano vinaigrette

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Ingredients for the vinaigrette:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red peppers
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Ingredients for the salad:
Cooked farro, cooled
½ cup pepperoni slices, cut into quarters
½ cup roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
½ cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
½ cup fresh mozzarella, cubed or torn into small pieces
½ cup celery, small diced
Garlic-oregano vinaigrette
Seasoning to taste

Directions:
To cook the farro, place the chicken stock and water in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette: Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk vigorously until well-combined and fully emulsified. Set aside for later use in recipe or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Once the pot of water has begun to boil, add the farro, bay leaf and kosher salt and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grain softens but still has a slight crunch.

Remove pot from burner, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Drain the farro into a strainer and discard the bay leaf. Transfer the farro to a large bowl and drizzle it immediately with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette; toss to combine, then let the farro cool for 10 minutes.

Next, add the pepperoni, roasted red peppers, olives, mozzarella and celery. Drizzle with half of the remaining vinaigrette and toss to combine. Add the rest of the vinaigrette and toss again. Taste and add seasoning as desired. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving so that the flavors can meld together or refrigerate overnight and bring to room temperature before serving. Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.

Related Topics: FOODRECIPESMEMBERS-ONLY
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.
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