This soup is very hearty and a great way to warm up and given the recent cold snap here in Rome it tastes all the better. It takes a while to make, but freezes really well so I’d make a big batch and keep it in the freezer for a rainy day. The recipe below is about 12 servings.
3 red onions
2 celery stalks
1 small bag dried porcini mushrooms (about 150 gr)
1 kg farro
500 g chestnuts
10 sage leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
cooking brandy or cognac
1) Thinly slice the red onions and celery. In the bottom of a large pot slowly sauté celery and onions in a good amount of olive oil until they just begin to caramelize. This should take 20-30 minutes on very low heat.
2) While the celery and onions are sautéing, bring a pot with 2 liters of water to a boil. Once the water boils add the dried porcini and turn the flame off. Cover the pot and let the mushrooms steep for 20 minutes.
3) As the tea is steeping bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the farro and cook at a low simmer for about 20 minutes. They’re done when they are soft but still have a little texture in the middle, similar to al dente pasta, as they will finish cooking in the soup at the end. When they are done strain them and save the water.
4) Once the mushrooms have soaked for 20 minutes strain them and preserve that water as well. At this point the celery and onions should be ready and you can chop the rehydrated mushrooms with the sage leaves and add them to the bottom of the pot. At this point turn the heat up and let the the mushrooms cook with the celery and onions. Keep a close eye on the pot, stirring occasionally and as soon as things start to stick to the bottom of the pan add the water the mushrooms were steeping in. Bring the soup to a boil and then turn heat to medium-low and allow the soup to simmer.
5) If you bought raw chestnuts, cut a very shallow incision through the shell a little more than half way and roast them for 8-10 minutes at 180°C (355°F). Let them cool for a minute or two and then peel them while they’re still quite warm (as the cool they become much harder to peel).
6) Once they’re peeled roughly chopped all of them. Take half and throw them directly in the soup, and put the other half in a small pan with a cup of a water and a healthy splash of brandy. Cook them for 15 minutes, or until they are easily pierced with a fork. Blend with a food processor or hand blender and add to soup.
7) Let everything simmer together for half an hour, adding water from the farro if it starts to dry out. Add the farro for the last ten minutes of cooking. For the last 2-3 minutes and the thyme leaves.
8) Serve in large bowls with a splash of nice olive oil over the top. Some spicy olio nuovo would be ideal.