With this dish, I’m stealing a play from chef John Taboada’s repertoire. He makes the most alluring little ode to mac n’ cheese with his farro parmesan pie at Luce here in Portland. I adapted it for the home cook who wants a simple and complete meal right out of the oven. If you can find it, freekeh also works well here, but in that case, skip toasting the grain.
Prepare a 9×13-inch baking pan, or equivalent oval gratin dish, by brushing with ½ tablespoon butter. I’m a bread baker and always have a few crumbs lying about, so I like to coat the dish with a thin layer of breadcrumbs, but you decide. Also, sprinkle in a tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Place the farro on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes until a toasty aroma starts to fill the kitchen. Meanwhile, put a medium pot of water on to boil and add enough salt to taste briny like the ocean.
When the water is boiling, remove the farro from the oven and add to the salty water. Cook for 25 minutes until almost tender and some of the grains are starting to swell and break open. Drain and set aside to cool a bit.
Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into small florets. Peel the stalk and cut it into small disks about the same size as the florets.
Combine the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses in a medium bowl. Set aside ½ cup of this mixture to use as topping. To the rest, add the ricotta, egg, cream, garlic, shallot, parsley, black pepper, and salt. Beat until no egg yolk is visible. Fold the farro and broccoli into the cheese mixture. Tumble into your prepared pan. At this point you could refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready to eat, top with the reserved cheese mixture, cover tightly with foil and bake on 400°F for 25 minutes (add an additional 5-10 minutes if its coming out of the refrigerator). Remove the foil and turn the heat to broil. Bake for an additional 5 or so minutes until the top is golden brown. Keep a close eye so it doesn’t burn. Serve immediately while it’s still bubbling, and savor with delight and gratitude.