Abruzzo 1st Course: Farro & Butternut Squash Soup with Passerina #ItalianFWT

#ItalianFWT visits Abruzzo
This month on #ItalianFWT we’re jetting off to Abruzzo to explore the food & wine of the region. The region of Abruzzo sits very near Rome, however, the steep Apennine mountains divide the west side of Italy (Rome) from the east (Abruzzo). Historically, this made travel difficult, hence Abruzzo is barely known.

Abruzzo Fun Facts
Even though we hear little of the region, we’ve got people. Several famous people are from Abruzzo, either born there or their families were originally from Abruzzo. Examples include Madonna, Mario Batali (!), and Dean Martin.  In case you’re thinking of visiting, Mario has a nice little summary with some good looking restaurant recommendations.  Who can argue with Mario Batali!  Also, the area has rugged mountains, multiple national parks and quiet seaside towns.  Maybe a trip is in order!

wikipedia image 2000px-Abruzzo_in_Italy.svg

Abruzzo sits right next to Lazio, the region dominated by Rome. However, Abruzzo is little known. image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Abruzzo Foods
The region grows some crops not found commonly elsewhere in Italy.  Two great examples are farro, an ancient grain, and saffron.  We love farro at our house. It’s very healthy and makes a nice, nutty chewy starch to include in a wide variety of meals.

A local crop, farro is common in many dishes from Abruzzo.

A local crop, farro is common in many dishes from Abruzzo.

First Course: Farro Stew with Butternut Squash
With summer on the wane, I thought a nice traditional Abruzzo soup would be a great first course to pair with a regional wine. This soup is very easy to make and tastes delicious, so make a big batch and freeze some for those colder days ahead.

Abruzzo White Wines
In Abruzzo, the most common white wine is Trebbiano, yawn.  Even though we have a good selection of Italian wines from less known regions in Minnesota, I was unable to find any Trebbiano from Abruzzo on our shelves.  However, I did find a wine made from an even lesser known white grape native to the region: Passerina.


Passerina is a native grape to the Abruzzo region, and one you’ll rarely encounter anywhere else in the world.

Barone di Valforte Passerina Colli Aprutini IGT 2013 ($16 from South Lyndale Liquors)
Eye: Clear, palest off-white. Just a touch of lemon eggshell.
Nose: Fresh floral nose, underripe pear, a bit of pit fruit richness.
Mouth: Medium body, a bit mineral. When you just drink it, it seems a little flat, like low acidity.  However, it does have a mouthwatering finish. Even though this wine wasn’t impressive at first, it grew on me, and now I’m thinking I might need to buy more. I can’t quite articulate why, it just tasted good.

The Barone di Valforte Passerina paired beautifully with the farro & butternut squash soup.  The soup is full of nice grain and vegetable flavor, but it isn’t rich like a cream based soup would be.  Filling, yes, but fatty, no.  The wine’s medium body and refreshing finish was the perfect complement, cleansing the palate.

Grilled lamb chops aren't a particular Abruzzo specialty, but they pair beautifully with Montepulciano

Grilled lamb chops aren’t a particular Abruzzo specialty, but they pair beautifully with Montepulciano.

Second Course: Lamb Chops with Grilled Autumn Vegetables
While not a dish from Abruzzo, the grilled lamb chops and veggies were a nice complement to a wonderful red wine from the only DOCG in the region.

Montepulciano from Colline Teramane is the top in the Abruzzo empire

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Colline Teramane is the top in the Abruzzo empire

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
The Montepulciano grape suffers from an identity crisis in Italy.

  • Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – a very nice red wine from Tuscany made near the town of Montepulciano.  But the principal grape in the wine is Sangiovese (like Chianti), not Montepulciano
  • Rosso Conero – Top red wine from Le Marche region must be at least 85% Montepulciano, but the grape name doesn’t appear on the label.
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – Finally, the wines are predominantly made from Montepulciano, in the Abruzzo region. whew.

This is the wonder that is Italian wine naming!

Within the Abruzzo region, there is a large area which can produce Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC wine.  A much smaller delineated area in the north of Abruzzo produces a DOCG (highest classification) wine with the sub-region in the name: Colline Teramane.  While it’s easy to pick up a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for under $10, don’t mistake that wine for a wine from Colline Teramane, they just aren’t the same.

Castellum Vetus Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG 2008 ($34 from South Lyndale Liquors)
Eye: Barely cloudy, possibly unfiltered. Dark dark dark, just a bit of color on the edge. Tending toward warm tones after several years in the bottle.
Nose: Blue/black fruit, blackberries, a bit of oak influence but not overly so.  A bit of vanilla, sweet impression, but very restrained.
Mouth: Dark rich fruit, peppery finish. Nice length.

A rich red wine to go with grilled lamb chops.

A rich red wine to go with grilled lamb chops.

I like this wine a lot, just on the edge of being too impacted by the oak, but dials it back just a bit. The rich, finely oak influenced wine was a nice pairing for the grilled flavors and fatty goodness of the lamb chops and veggies on a late summer evening.

#ItalianFWT Discussion and Fellow Blogger Abruzzo Ideas
Follow along the Abruzzo journey with my other Abruzzi fans during our chat  this Saturday morning at 10am CDT on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.  Hope to see you there! After the chat, please go and visit my fellow bloggers posts on this lesser known region:
Vino Travels – The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Terramane DOCG with Cerelli Spinozzi

Rockin’ Red Blog – The Natural Wonders of Abruzzo

Italophilia – An American in Abruzzo

Confessions of a Culinary Diva – Abruzzo Comfort Food & Wine

Cooking Chat – Pizza Pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for #ItalianFWT

The Wining Hour – 3 Wine & Food Pairings with Gusto from Abruzzo

Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Polpi in Purgatorio

Enofylz Wine Blog – Grilled Lamb Lollipops with Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Tralcetto

Join us on October 3rd with our exploration of Umbria!

Farro makes a delicious base for this healthy soup.

Farro makes a delicious base for this healthy soup.

Farro & Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is adapted from one in “The Southern Italian Farmers Table“. This book is a nice resource if you’re interested in regional dishes typically served in inns and agritourismos.


  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped finely
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 – 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 – 15 oz. can of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Rinse the farro well under running water
  • Bring the farro and water to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce to a simmer, covered for about 30 minutes. Drain any remaining water and set aside.
  • Warm the EVOO in a 5-6 quart pot (I use a saucier) at medium heat.
  • Add the onions, carrots, celery, butternut squash and a pinch of salt, sauté until the onion softens, 8-10 minutes.
  • Add 2 cups of water, the tomatoes, parsley, and rosemary to the pot and cook for 15-20 minutes
  • Using an immersion blender, purée about half the ingredients of the pot, leaving plenty of whole pieces for texture.
  • Add the farro and the chickpeas, continue cooking for 10-15 more minutes.  Adjust the water to your desired consistency, and adjust salt and pepper to your taste.
  • Garnish with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese after the soup is served.

What do you think the cork symbols mean?

What do you think the cork symbols mean?

23 Responses to “Abruzzo 1st Course: Farro & Butternut Squash Soup with Passerina #ItalianFWT”
  1. Ishita says:

    Wow what an explanatory post on Abruzzo. Thanks this really helps 🙂 I haven’t had a chance to have the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.. Il make sure to know which one is from Abruzzo and leave the identity crisis for them 😉

  2. Great post, Jeff! Beautiful photos and lovely pairings! Salute!!

  3. Great comprehensive article. Interesting to learn about famous people from the region.

  4. L.Lane says:

    Nice post! I like the butternut squash recipe. Something new to try.

  5. culinarycam says:

    I love this post. Thanks for the great explanations of the wines. I knew there was a difference between the Montepulciano grape versus town, but didn’t delve too much into that. And your soup looks delicious. I started to feel the first chill of autumn this morning. I’ll definitely put this on my list of to-try! Cheers, Jeff.

  6. Diana says:

    This is going in my Recipes to Make file! Also, I really need to start trying new Italian wines. I’ll have to take part in the one of the upcoming #ItalianFWT

  7. Cooking Chat says:

    Count me as another adding this to my recipes to make list! Pinning to that board now. Sometimes simply “tastes good” is enough to say about a wine!

  8. That farro recipe looks perfect for the fall! I can feel it creeping into the night but here on the central coast of CA but we are in Indian Summer during the days (around 90 during the afternoon every day!)

  9. I very much enjoyed your post Jeff! I too have wondered about the Montepulciano thing….Your lamb chops look fantastic. And I’m a fan of farro. I didn’t realize it has Italian roots!

  10. lindaravello says:

    I wish that I’d know the difference between ‘Noble di Montepulciano’ and ‘Montepulciano Abruzzo’ before I went wine shopping in Italy – we did buy a bottle of each though and a ‘Chianti Riserva’ which you will probably is only fit to put in my ‘Coq au Vin’! That pizza machine would fill my entire kitchen (no garden only window boxes!)

    • Thanks Lindy! I’ll bet that Chianti Riserva is excellent (and the other two will be good, too).

      • lindaravello says:

        Will let you know – we had a very nice Verdicchio del Castelli Di Jesi yesterday with sea bass in a mild chilli and coriander dressing – Le Foire des Vins began this week, so I am going to write a little article on this, just in general, as as I said, I am no expert. Which site should I go on today (I think it is the French weekend?)

  11. Great… I’m going to change my soup plans for tonight and make this instead! Grazie!

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  1. […] Farro and Butternut Squash Soup from Jeff at FoodWineClick.com […]

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