This delicious Italian chicken and farro recipe is not only healthy, it’s easy and quick to prepare. Whether you’re new to cooking with farro or a long-time fan of these ancient grains, you’ll love this Italian-infused recipe.
For a while now I’ve been wanting to create more healthy recipes and recently a subscriber asked me if I could create a recipe using farro. That was just the motivation I needed to figure out what to do with a bag of farro we had sitting in our pantry.
This recipe tastes so good that I’m even more inspired to develop a bunch of additional farro recipes. I’ll keep you posted!
About this Chicken and Farro Recipe
As with nearly all my recipes, I try to keep all my Italian cooking simple and easy without compromising flavor or quality. This recipe uses ingredients that you probably already have on hand in your pantry or refrigerator.
For this chicken farro recipe, we precook the farro separately in a sauce pan. While it’s cooking we can cook the chicken mixture. The farro is served underneath a delicious herbed chicken mixture full of Italian flavors, tomatoes and spinach.
Don’t worry if you’ve never done this before – it’s just like making rice – super easy.
Besides cooking the farro in a saucepan, everything else can be prepared and cooked in a single skillet, making this dinner recipe super convenient!
You might be surprised to hear this, but farro is actually not a specific grain, even though some brands such as Bob’s Red Mill sell bags of “farro” under that title. Farro is a category of three different ancient grains which are einkorn, emmer, and the more commonly known, spelt (which I’m using).
Whether hulled or pearled farro, both types of processing remove the outer hull which is inedible. However, pearled farro has the bran removed as well which means it’s not as loaded with nutrients. To be considered a whole grain, the bran must be left in tact. So if you want it as a whole grain – get it hulled.
Either way, farro is for the most part unchanged from their original DNA from thousands of years ago which is why it’s considered an ancient grain.
Known as one of the most nutritious grains, it is full of healthy carbohydrates and fiber. Not to mention iron, magnesium and B3. You can check out a full list here for the health benefits of spelt.
This ancient grain is very popular in Italy (score one for the Italians!) and used in a number of healthy recipes. It goes great with chicken recipes and is often used as a substitute for rice, even known to be used in risottos. I even use it for my farro stuffed peppers recipe.
Some sources say emmer is the farro of choice in the US and Europe, but I’ve seen too many conflicting opinions on this via cookbooks and online sources. So I can’t say one way or the other who is right. Sorry friends!
Using spelt in this recipe
For this recipe, you can use any of the above, but I use spelt which is readily available in many grocery stores and online stores. Do your due diligence with price shopping though because prices vary.
Spelt is also called farro grande which refers to the size of the grain – being the largest (grande) of all three. The other two grains are farro piccolo and farro medio respectively.
If you’re wondering how to cook the spelt, it’s a simple 1:2 ratio for pearled spelt which I use. It’s the first step in the recipe and I’ll show you step by step how to prepare it further below.
Keep in mind that spelt doubles in size when cooked. I cook 1 cup of raw spelt, and for 4 servings that gives everyone 1/2 cup cooked farro.
The ingredients you’ll need for making this chicken farro recipe are easy to find in any grocery store. If you can’t find the spelt, you can buy it online here.
- Pearled Farro (spelt)
- Olive oil
- Skinless chicken breasts
- Canned tomatoes
- Salt & pepper
- Romano Cheese for topping – parmesan cheese can be substituted
Step by Step Instructions
Here are the steps for making this Italian-filled chicken and farro recipe. Specific measurements are provided in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Start by cooking the spelt farro
Rinse the farro thoroughly with cold water and drain. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add the farro. Bring back up to a boil, then reduce to low and cook uncovered for 25 minutes.
This healthy grain has a soft and chewy texture. The grains will have popped open a little bit showing some white. It will also have a slightly nutty aroma and taste which goes great with the spinach and tomatoes.
While this is cooking we can focus on making the chicken and tomato mixture.
Saute the onions
Meanwhile in a large skillet or saute pan, heat half the olive oil over medium-low heat and cook the diced onions about 5-8 minutes until they are translucent. I use a cast iron skillet for this recipe, but any type of skillet will do.
The reason I use only half the olive oil is because I don’t want the chicken to soak it all up. I want the flavor to also be in the tomatoes and other ingredients that we add later on.
Cook the chicken
Cut the skinless chicken breasts into bite size cubes. I like them on the smaller side, about ½” but 1” cubes will work just fine. Cook the chicken cubes for 5 to 10 minutes until they are fully cooked through, making sure to stir and flip them over for even cooking.
There should be no pink in the chicken. When done, remove the chicken to a plate. We’ll be adding it back in shortly.
Add the frozen spinach to the skillet with the onions. Cook for 5 minutes or until spinach is no longer frozen.
Add tomatoes and other ingredients
Next add the can of diced tomatoes including the juice, water, chopped garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, plus the rest of the olive oil.
PRO TIP: I purposefully added the garlic mid-recipe so that it would not burn while the chicken was cooking. Garlic is easy to burn, and adding it at the time of the other ingredients works perfectly.
Stir so that all the ingredients are incorporated and mixed together. Let cook for approximately 5 – 10 minutes stirring occasionally, making sure that the liquid doesn’t fully evaporate.
This should be enough time to allow the flavors to blend and provide us with a light sauce-like chicken mixture.
Return chicken to skillet
Return the chicken to the skillet and mix it with all the ingredients. Let it warm back up for just a few minutes.
Serve with farro
Serve the farro on a plate, or pasta bowl, topped with the chicken and tomato mixture along with a good sprinkling of the Romano cheese.
Getting hungry yet?
Variations for Chicken and Farro
There are countless ways to modify this recipe and I encourage you to experiment to suit your tastes. Here are some ideas.
- Add some chopped olives or artichokes.
- Use other grains such as wheat berries or barley.
- Use less farro and incorporate with pasta. I did this with my leftovers.
- Add some cooked ground beef or sausage.
- Swap out the water with chicken stock or broth when cooking the chicken mixture.
Side Dish Recipes
Since farro has a slightly nutty flavor, I recommend serving with side dishes that are not sweet or citrusy, like my chicken recipes that use lemons, etc.
This Italian green beans recipe are full of earthy flavor that will go great with this dish.
Serve this chicken recipe with some sauted vegetables such as my sauted zucchini with olive oil and garlic.
Any chicken or farro recipe will go with a healthy Italian green salad. Toss some greens together with some onion, olive oil and garlic and you’re all set.
Reduce Sodium. To keep the sodium level down, I chose not to use chicken broth for the liquid. Instead I use distilled water. This doesn’t cause the dish to taste watery at all and this way I can control how much sodium is used.
Use Pearled or Hulled Farro. When purchasing the spelt, make sure you buy it in its pearled or hulled form. This means the tough inedible outer hull has already been removed and you don’t have to soak and cook it for an extended amount of time. Just make sure to rinse it well.
Use Whisk to Rinse. An easy way I rinse my grains is to place them in a medium bowl, fill it with water and then use a whisk to stir it until the water gets cloudy. Drain and repeat 4 or 5 times until water runs clear. The whisking action helps speed up the cleaning process greatly!
No it is not gluten free, although it is sometimes easier on digestion for those with sensitivities.
1 cup of dry uncooked farro doubles in size when cooked.
Yes, you can make the farro in advance by a day or two. Just store it in the fridge in an air tight container. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge up to 3 days.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe for chicken and farro with spinach. Let me know how you enjoy it using the comments below and if you make any changes to make it your own!
Chicken and Farro with Tomatoes and Spinach
- 1 cup farro hulled or pearled spelt
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 Tbsp in beginning, 1 Tbsp later in recipe
- 3/4 cup diced small onion
- 16 oz chopped chicken breasts
- 12 oz frozen chopped spinach
- 14 oz can diced tomatoes with their juices
- 2 chopped garlic cloves
- 1/2 Tbsp dried parsley
- 1/2 cup water
- dash salt and pepper to taste
- Romano cheese for topping at end
Cook the farro
- Rinse the farro thoroughly then drain.1 cup farro
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Reduce to low and cook uncovered for 25 minutes or until the farro is tender and slightly chewy. It is hard to overcook farro so if you prefer it softer, feel free to cook 10 minutes longer.
- When farro is done, remove from heat.
Create the Chicken Mixture
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add one Tablespoon of the olive oil, and diced onions. Stir so all the onions are covered, then saute for 5 to 8 minutes until translucent.3/4 cup diced small onion
- Add the cubed chicken pieces and cook them until there is no pink inside. This should take 5 to 10 minutes depending on how large you cut the cubes. Make sure to stir and flip them over for even and thorough cooking.16 oz chopped chicken breasts
- Once cooked, remove from the pan and keep on a plate or bowl for later.
- Reduce heat to low and add the frozen spinach. To save time, thaw the spinach first in the microwave.12 oz frozen chopped spinach
- Once spinach is cooked down, add the rest of the olive oil (1 Tablespoon), and add the can of diced tomatoes along with the juices, plus all the remaining ingredients, except the cheese.14 oz can diced tomatoes with their juices, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1/2 Tbsp dried parsley, 1/2 cup water, dash salt and pepper
- Cook the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes stirring occasionally, making sure everything gets incorporated together and that the liquid doesn't evaporate.
- When ready, return the chicken to the pan, stir and warm through.
- Serve by placing the farro on a plate and the mixture on top. This allows you to control how much farro you want with the mixture per setting.Romano cheese
- This recipe uses pearled spelt.
- I recommend serving 1/2 cup cooked farro per person. This is my preference, you may like more or less. If you want less grains, then cook 1/2 the amount of spelt/farro.
- This recipe makes great leftovers. You can even add it to some pasta to create a new dish.
- For other ingredients to add, try other vegetables such as cauliflower, olives, artichokes, green beans, or roasted zucchini slices.