All About Spelt

by John Wood

All About Spelt

“These days, the main production area {in Italy} is Umbria, and also Toscana and Lazio….At one time you bought spelt with it’s husk still on, and every family would have had a little machine, in order to hull the grains….Spelt is traditionally used in food for feasts and festivals because they say it makes you happy when you eat it.  Perhaps because it apparently has a lot of healthy properties: more protein even than lentils, a lot of fiber and complex carbohydrates - it is even supposed to be good for the skin and hair.” - Giorgio Locatelli

I will always remember the first time I made a spelt pasta.  I was working at an American restaurant and doing whatever I could do to experiment with different grains without anyone knowing it.  One day I made spelt pappardelle and I remember the GM looking at it, making a disgusted face, and say 'what is thaaaat?'.  Later on that day, I gave him the final dish without letting him know it was the pasta he had looked at earlier.  He loved it and demanded to know why it was so good - what was different about it.  I told him, and he wouldn't believe me until I showed him all the components.  Finally he came around.

There are so many reasons to eat a variety of grains it is hard to know where to start.  First of all, it’s good for the soil.  Farmer’s NEED to grow a variety of crops in order to have healthy soil, and healthy soil is needed in order to have nutritious (and tasty) crops.  Second, It’s healthy for us -eating healthy makes you feel good, both mentally and physically.  Eating a wide variety of nutritious food is what we evolved to do.  The reason we tend to eat so much wheat, soy, and corn products has nothing to do with some innate superiority of these plants - it has everything to do with how profitable they can be.

Spelt is another ancient grain (like Einkorn) with a gluten structure that is easier to digest than the newer varieties of wheat.  If used in bread with a slower fermentation process, like the kind we use, it becomes even easier to digest.  Maybe I’m biased, but I find that old fashioned traditional food and techniques tend to be healthier and taste better.  It’s closer to what we have evolved to consume, unlike the factory food that lines the shelves of conventional grocery stores.

The spelt we use is grown by Grapewood Farm in Va.  It is generally not available year round, so I use it as much as I can while it’s here.  Right now you can find it in our Dry Spelt Fiorentini, Fougasse, and Minestrone.

Here is a great spring recipe that is excellent on its own or as a side to our Pork Chop, Salmon, or Wild Shrimp.

Spelt Fiorentini with Peas and Morels

*Yields two servings

  • 3c Dry Spelt Fiorentini Pasta
  • 1c Fresh Morels, washed and cut in half
  • 1c Fresh Peas
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2c water
  • 1 sprig of mint
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs parmesan, grated
  • Sea Salt
  1. Bring 3qts water and 1.5 tbs sea salt to a rolling boil.
  2. Gently add the pasta, stir one time, and let cook for 7-9 minutes.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, add the butter and garlic to a small pan on medium heat.
  4. Cook the butter and garlic until it is golden brown. 
  5. Add the peas, morels, and water and let simmer for about 4 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked how you like.  The water will evaporate - that is what you want.
  6. Season the vegetables with sea salt. 
  7. Strain the pasta when it is done how you like, and add it to the pea and morel mixture. 
  8. Add the entire sprig of mint and stir gently on medium heat for another minute. 
  9. Remove the mint, divide the pasta between two plates or bowls, and top with parmesan.
About the Author
John Wood
Chef John Wood
John’s passion for humble, authentic food developed from a childhood spent moving around in Africa and Central America. As the son of diplomats, he moved a lot as a child, immersing himself in the rich cultural and culinary traditions of different nations. In his teens, John got a job as a dishwasher in a small French restaurant in DC. It was there that he fell in love with the kitchen and decided he wanted to be wanted to be a chef. John has spent the last 20 years working with the areas best chefs and restauranteurs like Bob Kinkead and Ashok Bajaj. Strict adherence to proper technique and sourcing quality ingredients are the foundation of his cooking.
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