The difference between farro, emmer & spelt

The difference between farro, emmer & spelt

This week our Pasta Grannies episode stars Doriana and her farro flour pasta, cerretini. If flours interest you, here is a small summary on wheat classification. For ages, I thought farro was similar but not the same as spelt (a grain we find quite easily nowadays in the UK), but then I was told very firmly – by a UK based Italian chef – that yes course, spelt is just the English word for the Italian farro. Meanwhile I had no idea what emmer wheat was; it sounded sort of American and I’d never seen it on the shelves in Italy or the UK.

I had another google (I hate getting things wrong – not that google is a guarantee of anything) and came across an article in the New York Times, reaffirming what I thought originally:

Farro is Triticum dicoccum – and is the same thing as Emmer.

And there is also a ‘false’ farro – Triticum monococcum which resembles spelt. Spelt is Triticum spelta. It’s more rounded and softer than farro.

Meanwhile, everyday wheat is Triticum aestivum; durum wheat (i.e. what semola is made from) is Triticum durum

We won’t get into the arguments geneticists have with taxonomists – I’ve kept to the traditional classifications here. But do scientific names matter when it comes to cooking? I wouldn’t go as far at the NY Times and assert farro is not a wheat – it’s the same genus and does have some gluten – but it’s a hexaploid wheat, whereas spelt and everyday wheat are tetraploid species. I think one should be aware spelt and farro flour will behave a bit differently – and gluten levels will differ. If you’ve got this far, well done. Please go over to our farro pasta recipe and enjoy – it’s delicious.