Farro and Spring Vegetables

3 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 oz. pancetta, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups farro, rinsed
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 bunch asparagus, about 1 lb.
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and light green portions, rinsed well and cut into matchsticks
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen English peas
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3-oz. piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a large, heavy fry pan over medium heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onion, celery and pancetta and sauté until the onion is softened and the pancetta has rendered most of its fat, about 5 minutes. Add the farro and stir to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring, until the farro is lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the stock and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a slow cooker. Stir in the remaining 3 cups stock, the 1/4 tsp. salt and several grinds of pepper. Cover and cook on low according to the manufacturer’s instructions until the farro is tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, trim the tough stem ends from the asparagus and cut the spears into 2-inch lengths. Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus pieces, reserving the tips, and cook for 4 minutes. Add the asparagus tips and cook until all the pieces are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes more. Drain the asparagus and rinse under cold running water until cool. Spread the pieces out on a kitchen towel to dry.

About 5 minutes before the farro is ready, in a large, heavy fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the leeks and sauté for 1 minute. Add the peas and sauté for 1 minute. Add the asparagus and sauté until all the vegetables are just tender and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.

Stir the vegetables into the farro and transfer to a warmed serving bowl. Garnish with the lemon zest and parsley. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

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