borlotti bean risotto

Join Culinate

With a free Culinate membership, you can:

  • Create your own recipe collections
  • Queue recipes for later use
  • Blog your culinary endeavors
  • Be part of our online community of cooks
  • And much more…
Join Now

Lorna Sass’s Scarlet Runner Beans with Farro Risotto and Saffron

From the book Heirloom Beans by and
Serves 4


From the moment I met Lorna Sass, I felt as if I was visiting with an old friend. Lorna’s pressure-cooker books are seminal, and I’d always been interested in what she wrote. As her recipe shows, risotto is one of the dishes that the pressure cooker does best. The cooker pulls the starch out of the grain in record time, so you need only stir for a few moments to finish off the dish rather than stand at the stove during the entire cooking time.

Farro, a type of emmer wheat, is an ancient cousin of the wheat commonly grown in this country. The starch in farro creates a wonderfully creamy risotto. Italian farro is sold in most gourmet shops and is readily available by mail order. For this dish, you’ll need semipearled farro, labeled farro perlato. If you don’t have farro on hand, see the variation that uses rice, below.


½ tsp. saffron threads
1 Tbsp. warm water
1 Tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium yellow onion, chopped
cups semipearled farro
cup dry white wine, vermouth, or sherry
3 to 3½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
cups cooked and drained scarlet runner beans
cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnishing
½ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
1 tsp. minced fresh lemon thyme or rosemary
~ Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the saffron threads and stir in the warm water. Alternatively, crush in a small bowl with a spoon. Set aside.
  2. In a 4-quart (or larger) pressure cooker over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Sauté the onions until they begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the farro and stir to coat with the oil. Continue cooking and stirring until the farro releases a toasted aroma, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until it evaporates. Stir in 3 cups of the broth, stirring to scrape up any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the cooker.
  3. Lock the lid in place. Bring to high pressure over high heat. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 8 minutes. Turn off the heat. Quick-release the pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape.
  4. Stir in the saffron. Set the cooker over medium-high heat and stir the farro vigorously. Boil uncovered, stirring every minute or so, until the mixture thickens and the farro is tender but still chewy, 1 to 3 minutes. If the mixture becomes dry before the farro is done, stir in ¼ to ½ cup of the remaining broth. The finished risotto should be slightly runny; it will continue to thicken as it sits on the plate.
  5. Stir in the scarlet runner beans and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the ⅓ cup cheese, walnuts, and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in shallow bowls or on plates. Garnish each portion with additional cheese.


Substitute 1 1/2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice for the farro. Increase the broth to 3 1/2 to 4 cups. Decrease the cooking time under pressure to 4 minutes.
You can use marrow beans if you like, but the color of the scarlet runners against the saffron is fabulous.

This content is from the book Heirloom Beans by Vanessa Barrington and Steve Sando.

There are 21 comments on this item
Add a comment
Average Rating 5
19% recommend this recipe
1. by Tamar on Dec 5, 2008 at 2:06 PM PST

I love using my pressure cooker and it is a lifesaver for making risotto.
Thank you.

2. by Ali on Dec 5, 2008 at 8:32 PM PST

This sounds heavenly! This looks like a perfect creamy, fragrant risotto. Thank you for the recipe :)

3. by Cyndi on Dec 6, 2008 at 8:59 AM PST

I love scarlet runner beans, though I haven’t had them in a long time. They’re hard to find in markets but they’re actually very easy to grow. I had a chain link fence’s worth of them for a couple of years. I admit I didn’t do much with the beans themselves, though I’m glad for recipes. I mostly used the pods. Pick them young and soft and they’re great in stirfries or salads. If they get woody, let them stay on the vine until you have perfect dried beans. Plant a few of the beans to keep your crop going.

4. by steadier572 on Dec 6, 2008 at 3:42 PM PST

I have never had Scarlett beans but the recipe sounds delicious and I will try it.

5. by amwhiteh on Dec 6, 2008 at 5:12 PM PST

What are scarlet runner beans exactly? I’ve heard of runner beans but are most of them ‘scarlet’?

6. by carol s on Dec 7, 2008 at 5:54 AM PST

This recipe sounds fantastic. I am always on the lookout for really good vegetarian recipe ideas so I will love to try this one out.

7. by trishden on Dec 7, 2008 at 9:12 AM PST

This sounds absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to try it.

8. by Katie on Dec 7, 2008 at 9:19 AM PST

This looks great. I’d love to try it but I’m not sure I can track down all of the ingredients. Has anyone tried this without the saffron?

9. by Debbie Murray on Dec 7, 2008 at 8:41 PM PST

I can’t wait to try this. I have a passion for risotto!!

10. by Joanne Schultz on Dec 7, 2008 at 9:03 PM PST

Lorna Sass’s Scarlet Runner Beans with Farro Risotto and Saffron sounds delicious and colorful!

11. by wendy wallach on Dec 7, 2008 at 9:46 PM PST

where do you get saffron threads for this recipe? Can anything else be substituted?

12. by anonymous on Dec 7, 2008 at 10:49 PM PST

This looks like a magnificent risotto presentation.

13. by Barbara Wright on Dec 8, 2008 at 5:06 AM PST

semipearled farro? Emmer wheat? I thought farro was a card game in olden England :-) At least I know what risotto is. I may have to bring the ingredient list to Whole Foods so they can show me what and where these things are. This recipe sounds really good!

14. by shrinky on Dec 8, 2008 at 5:21 AM PST

I love trying new recipes in my pressure cooker. It’s even more fun when I can’t pronounce half of the ingredients. This looks wonderful!

15. by Timothy W. on Dec 8, 2008 at 8:03 AM PST

This actually looks so good I might try it tonight! (And to think I just came here to entert the contest.)


16. by lilyk on Dec 8, 2008 at 8:40 AM PST
Rating: five

This recipe sounds very tasty! I’ll try it out soon.

17. by anonymous on Dec 8, 2008 at 8:43 AM PST

I love lima beans and I think I would really like this recipe also.

18. by choochoo on Dec 8, 2008 at 10:19 AM PST

Sounds delish! It will be a new dish for us.

19. by Elliot Tapper on Dec 8, 2008 at 10:59 AM PST

This sounds delicious. The saffron and parmesan are genius

20. by anonymous on Dec 8, 2008 at 11:46 AM PST

this sounds good!

21. by Caroline Cummins on Dec 11, 2008 at 2:01 PM PST

Wendy -- You can usually find saffron threads in the spices section of your grocery store.

Add a comment

Think before you type

Culinate welcomes comments that are on-topic, clean, and courteous. For the benefit of the community we reserve the right to delete comments that contain advertising, personal attacks, profanity, or which are thinly disguised attempts to promote another website.

Please enter your comment

Format: Bare URLs are automatically linked; use this style: [ "place text to be linked here"] for prettier links. You may specify *bold* or _italic_ text. No HTML please.

Please identify yourself

Not a member? Sign up!

Please prove that you’re not a computer

Our Table

Joy of Cooking app

A new tool for the kitchen

The latest in our collection of cooking apps.

Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer


Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Editor’s Choice