Zuppa di Farro

Tuscan Spelt Soup


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

This hearty soup exists in many forms and is especially common in the Garfagnana region, the mountainous area north-west of Lucca, but it is popular in the rest of Tuscany as well, including along the Umbrian border. Spelt is an ancient grain, and is reminiscent of an era when wheat was simply not available in these parts. Recently, it has become fashionable all over the country, and is used in soups such as this one, or boiled, drained, cooled and turned into delicious salads.


  • 200 g/7 oz whole spelt grain
  • 75 g/3 oz pancetta (smoked if possible), coarsely chopped
  • 75 ml/5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a few thyme sprigs
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, left whole
  • 1.8 kg/4 lb ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped, or 400 g/14 oz canned chopped tomatoes (with juice)
  • a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • about 1 litre/1 ¾ pints/4 cups vegetable, chicken or meat stock
  • sea salt and ground black pepper
  • freshly grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese, to serve


  1. Wash the spelt well, picking over the grains to remove chaff, pebbles or bad grains, then soak it overnight in cold water. Rinse the soaked spelt repeatedly until the water runs clear.

  2. Fry the pancetta gently in half the olive oil, until the fat runs, then add the thyme, onion and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.

  3. Remove and discard the garlic. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, parsley and basil. Cook for 3 minutes.

  4. Stir in the hot stock and bring back to the boil. Add the spelt.
  5. Cook the soup over a low heat, stirring often, for about 2 hours, or until the spelt is cooked (test by tasting one grain: it should be tender).
  6. Adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat and leave the soup for 1 hour to serve it just warm, with the remaining olive oil drizzled over.
  7. Offer around some grated cheese for each person to add to their own portion.