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This hearty and healthy vegan salad is packed full of flavor and healthy ingredients. I love the chewy farro base, which is high in protein and fiber to keep you full. Paired with zesty sun-dried tomato and walnut pesto and pan-fried eggplant, this salad works as a main meal or a side. Even better? It cooks in just 30 minutes and can be served warm or cold, making it super flexible as a weeknight meal.
Cooking with Farro
Farro is an ancient grain that dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. In more recent history, it’s popular in Italian cuisine, and is just starting to have its heyday in the USA!
If you haven’t cooked with farro before, I recommend starting with pearled farro, which conveniently is what you’ll find in most grocery stores.
Pearled farro has the outer grain removed (you can also get semi-pearled farro where half of the grain is intact). Pearled farro is quicker to cook than whole farro, and the flavor isn’t as strong.
However, there is a tradeoff, in that you loose some of the nutritional value of whole farro.
This Recipe is Healthy!!!
This vegan pesto farro salad is packed full of goodness, without sacrificing on taste.
This ancient grain is high in fiber, protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, and the vitamins E and B.
Farro is actually a great substitute for pasta night, or as a replacement for rice, as it packs more nutrients and is just as convenient.
You can also use it as a replacement for quinoa if you want to change things up a bit.
Walnuts are a heart-healthy food full of healthy fats and antioxidants. In fact, walnuts are one of the most antioxidant nuts out there, packed full of polyphenols and Vitamin E.
Walnuts are also high in fiber, protein, and omega 3 fatty acids and mono and poly unsaturated fats.
What does this all mean to you? In short, walnuts are full of nutrients that help manage cholesterol, reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Sun-dried tomatoes help you load up on vitamins C and K, as well as all important iron.
Sun-dried tomatoes also have lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their gorgeous red color while also protecting your cells from damage.
Tips for Perfect Pesto Farro Salad
- You can either use minced garlic from a jar or whole garlic cloves (or pre-peeled garlic cloves). Personally, I prefer to use minced garlic from a jar because it cuts down on prep time for most recipes if you don’t have a good garlic press. It also lasts a long time in the fridge – about 18 to 24 months.
- Buy the pearled style of farro, rather than “whole farro”. Pearled farro has the tough outer skin removed, making it easier and faster to cook, with a more tender final result.
- The olive oil, lemon juice, and salt quantities I’ve recommended for the pesto work for me, but feel free to experiment a bit and add to taste/texture for family.
- Experiment with adding different veggies – I often make this with eggplant and love the meaty texture and earthy flavor in combination with the farro. However, you should absolutely experiment with fresh seasonal veggies! Snap peas, red peppers, and spinach are just a few ideas. Last time I made this, I grabbed a handful of spinach from our garden to add!
- When cooking the eggplant, try to get them as flat as possible in your skillet to achieve uniform cooking.
- I like to use a cast iron skillet whenever possible, as it’s healthier than a non-stick pan which uses chemical coatings.
How to Make Red Pesto Farro Salad
A hearty vegan salad with zesty sun-dried tomato and walnut pesto and pan-fried eggplant. Cooks in 30 minutes and good for meal prep. Can be enjoyed warm or cold. Works as a main meal or side salad.
- 1 cup dry farro (pearled style)
- 2 medium eggplants
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- For the Pesto:
- ¾ cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes
- ¾ cup walnut halves
- ¾ cup fresh parsley leaves
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Cook farro according to package instructions and set it aside.
- Combine sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, parsley, garlic, salt, olive oil, and lemon juice in a food processor. Blend until it's a paste with small pieces, approx. 3 to 5 minutes.
- Slice eggplant in ½” semi-circles on a diagonal.
- Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan (preferably cast iron) on med-high.
- Add eggplant slices to pan. Try to lay all the pieces as flat as possible.
- Fry the first side for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned. Flip the pieces to cook the other side for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from pan when pieces are browned on both sides and slightly soft.
- Toss cooked farro with pesto until completely distributed.
- Add in cooked eggplant and gently toss.
- Serve hot or cold.
Stores well for 2-3 days in the fridge. Great with some shaved parmesan or other hard cheese if you're not vegan.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 539Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 253mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 13gSugar: 15gProtein: 13g
Nutrition information is estimated by a third-party plugin, and isn't always accurate. If you're on a special diet and require accurate nutritional information, talk to your doctor or a registered dietician.