The first thing we noticed when replacing pasta with whole-grain farro in this nourishing update on pasta salad with pesto was the grain's fantastic al dente texture.
Tender with just the right amount of chew (thanks to boiling pasta-style), each grain stayed distinct, the better to become coated in luscious sauce. For a supercharged, not-too-oily pesto, we combined basil with spinach, which added nutrients and helped retain the sauce's vibrant color.
We used sunflower seeds, a rich source of vitamin E and copper that may also have anti-inflammatory benefits, and about two-thirds of the typical amount of oil, combining it with 1/3 cup of yogurt, which further lightened the pesto's color and flavor and gave it a creamy but not greasy texture.
Halved cherry tomatoes paired well with the basil and brightened the salad. Jarred artichoke hearts, packed with fiber and vitamins, were an easy addition.
We prefer the flavor and texture of whole farro; pearled farro can be used, but the texture may be softer. Do not use quick-cooking or presteamed farro. The cooking time for farro can vary greatly among brands, so we recommend beginning to check for doneness after 10 minutes.
Pesto Farro Salad
PESTO FARRO SALAD WITH CHERRY TOMATOES AND ARTICHOKES
Start to finish: 1 hour
1 1/2 cups whole farro, rinsed
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 ounces (1 1/2 cups) baby spinach
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, toasted
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (½ cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup organic plain low-fat yogurt
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups jarred whole baby artichoke hearts packed in water, rinsed, patted dry, and quartered
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add farro and 1 tablespoon salt, return to boil, and cook until grains are tender with slight chew, 15 to 30 minutes. Drain farro, spread onto rimmed baking sheet, and let cool for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pulse baby spinach, basil, sunflower seeds, Parmesan cheese, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in food processor until finely ground, 20 to 30 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. With processor running, slowly add oil until incorporated. Add yogurt and pulse to incorporate, about 5 pulses; transfer pesto to large bowl.
Toss cooled farro with pesto until combined. Gently stir in tomatoes and artichoke hearts and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in warm water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, to adjust consistency. Serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 556 calories; 256 calories from fat; 28 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 761 mg sodium; 57 g carbohydrate; 12 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 19 g protein.
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