How to make Umbrian farro and lentil soup

This light, healthy and nutritious soup is almost a meal in itself and is perfect fodder as the temperature drops and the days start drawing in.

How to make Umbrian farro and lentil soup

The recipe uses farro, an ancient family of grains encompassing spelt, emmer and einkorn. It originates from southeast Umbria, where sprouting fields of wheat and lentils transform the Piano Grande into a sea of colour each summer.

The sprouting fields of lentils of the Piano Grande. Photo: clry2/Flickr

Ingredients (serves four)

One large onion, sliced thinly
Two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
One or two teaspoons of grated fresh ginger
One cup/250 grams of small brown whole lentils
One cup/250 grams of farro
Parsley, finely chopped
Four cups/1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock
One large garlic clove, halved lengthwise
Four slices of toasted Italian crusty bread
Grated Parmesan to taste


1) In a heavy saucepan, soften the onion slices in the olive oil over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally until they are a pale golden colour.

2) Next, add the ginger and stir for one minute.

3) Add the lentils and farro, along with the stock. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the soup is thickened and lentils are soft but still retain their shape.

4) Season the soup with salt and pepper only when cooked.

5) Toast the bread slices and rub them generously with fresh garlic and cut them into small cubes.

6) Ladle the soup into soup bowls, then add the chopped parsley, bread cubes, a teaspoon of good extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Serve immediately.


Some types of farro will need to be soaked overnight – check before you begin that you have 'pearled' farro, and not unpearled of semi-pearled which will require soaking.

If you are after a more typically Mediterranean flavour you can substitute the ginger for a sprig of rosemary or, a handful of sage leaves.

The soup can be frozen, before the toasted bread cubes are added and should be defrosted in a pan containing a very small about of water over a low heat.

This recipe was courtesy of Letizia Mattiacci, author of A Kitchen With A View.

She lives in the Umbrian mountains and runs the cooking school, Alla Madonna del Piatto. For more recipes visit her website 

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Italian recipe of the week: The perfect spaghetti carbonara

It has just three ingredients, but a lot of bite: artisan pasta maker Silvana Lanzetta shares her recipe for the perfect carbonara sauce.

Italian recipe of the week: The perfect spaghetti carbonara
An authentic carbonara sauce has only three ingredients. Photo: Flickr/Wine Dharma

Pasta alla carbonara (literally translated as 'coal workers’ pasta') is one of the most well-known and loved Italian delicacies: the creaminess of the eggs contrasting with the crispy guanciale makes it a pleasure to eat.

The origins of carbonara sauce are still uncertain. However, the recipe doesn’t appear until 1944, which prompts some speculations on how this delicious recipe came to be.

READ ALSO: The original recipe for authentic bolognese sauce

The most widely recognized theory is that this beloved Italian dish is an American adaptation of the traditional cacio e ova: when the Allied troops were stationed in Italy toward the end of World War Two, they got fond of pasta cacio e pepe, but to give them a “back home” flavour, they added smoked bacon to the recipe.

Roman people enthusiastically adopted the new dish, and quickly added it to their cooking.

They swapped the bacon for guanciale (the fat from a pig’s cheek) as they already had pasta recipes using guanciale and Pecorino cheese, the other two being pasta alla gricia and bucatini all’amatriciana.


Don't use Parmesan cheese for this recipe. However, if you're having difficulties finding guanciale, pancetta can be used instead.

Never add cream to the recipe: the creaminess is given by the sheer amount of grated Pecorino – so don't skimp on it! 

READ ALSO: Silvana's ten golden rules for cooking pasta like the Italians


  • 360 g spaghetti
  • 120 g guanciale
  • 4 eggs yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 150 g Pecorino Romano cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


Step 1:
In a non-stick pan, fry the guanciale in its own fat until slightly crispy, taking care not to brown it too much.

Step 2:
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and the whole egg with salt and pepper. Stir in the grated cheese until a thick cream is obtained. Add the cooked guanciale and reserve.

Step 3:
Cook the spaghetti al dente. Reserve about 100 ml of the cooking water. Drain the pasta well, and immediately pour the pasta into the bowl with the eggs. The heat of the pasta will cook the egg.

Step 4:
Add a little bit of the reserved cooking water, and mix well so as to coat all the pasta. If the sauce is still too dense, add some more cooking water. If too runny, stir in more cheese.

Step 5:
If necessary, season with more salt and pepper. Serve immediately sprinkled with extra grated Pecorino cheese.

Silvana Lanzetta. Photo: Private

Silvana Lanzetta was born into a family of pasta makers from Naples and spent 17 years as a part-time apprentice in her grandmother’s pasta factory. She specializes in making pasta entirely by hand and runs regular classes and workshops in London.

Find out more at her website,, including this recipe and others.