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Ina Garten’s Baked Farro and Butternut Squash is a must-make. So says the celebrity chef and Food Network star. The Barefoot Contessa side dish gets a boost from a not-so-secret ingredient. Plus, it’s hearty enough, according to Garten, to serve on its own. 

Bacon is the secret ingredient in Garten’s butternut squash side

Ina Garten smiles wearing a brown shirt
Ina Garten | Eugene Mim/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Making Baked Farro and Butternut Squash on Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa Garten revealed that bacon is what gives the dish flavor. 

“OK, you can’t talk about pork without talking about everybody’s favorite pork, bacon,” she said.
“And it’s the secret ingredient in my Baked Farro and Butternut Squash. It gives it so much flavor. “

Using her hack for cooking bacon, the Modern Comfort Food author opts to bake it oven as opposed to frying it in a pan. 

“Instead of cooking it on the top of the stove where it splatters all over the place what I do is I put a baking rack on a sheet pan and then just lay the bacon out flat,” Garten explained. Then she bakes it for 25 minutes and, as she noted, “it’s going to come out perfectly.”

Later, during a taste-test of the Baked Farro and Butternut Squash Garten praised the dish for having “so many flavors,” saying, “The butternut squash and the farro and the herbs but it’s the bacon that really takes it over the top.” 

“You’re definitely going to want to make this,” she added.

Barefoot Contessa tips on making Baked Farro and Butternut Squash

Ina Garten smiles wearing a blue shirt and holding a spoon
Ina Garten | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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Now for a few cooking tips from Garten. In addition to baking bacon in the oven, the Food Network star has a number of other ways to make the cooking process easier. One that’s crucial is using pearled farro. 

“Farro is this, like, ancient wheat grain. It’s just delicious,” Garten said on Barefoot Contessa. “It’s really nutty and the fact that it’s pearled means that the wheat germ has been taken out and it cooks much faster than semi-pearled farro so make sure you get pearled farro.”

Garten also has a tip for cutting butternut squash, which can be notoriously tough to do at home. “Peel the butternut squash and cut it in half so it doesn’t wobble while you cut it,” she wrote in her Make It Ahead cookbook

Finally, don’t skip on fresh herbs, particularly thyme. “It gives it so much flavor,” she said on Barefoot Contessa before adding, “Fresh thyme makes such a difference from dried thyme.”

How to make Ina Garten’s Baked Farro and Butternut Squash

Now for details on preparing the Barefoot Contessa side. Garten heats the oven and preps the bacon on a sheet pan, her most-used kitchen tool

While it’s in the oven baking she cooks onions in a dutch oven with what she often refers to as “good” olive oil. Then she seasons the onions and pours in the farro and some homemade chicken stock.

Next, she adds diced squash to the mixture and bakes it in the oven, covered, for approximately 30 minutes. When the time is up she removes the squash and farro mixture from the oven and sprinkles the top with Parmesan cheese. 

Then it goes back in the oven for another 20 minutes, uncovered, so the cheese can melt. 

Garten’s Baked Farro and Butternut Squash is, as the cookbook author wrote in Make It Ahead, “delicious as a side dish with a roast chicken” but also “hearty enough to be served as a main course.” What makes it “amazing” are “the flavors and textures of the sweet butternut squash, earthy farro, smoky applewood bacon, and good chicken stock.”