Other Savoury Risottos

Slow roasted tomato farro and what is umami?

what is umami

Hello friends. This post is full of good things. It’s full of homemade pesto, labneh, four hour slow roasted tomatoes melted into a farrotto (farro risotto) and a burning question – what is umami?

Let’s start at umami before I delve into this fantastic (and easy) dish. Umami is one of the five basic tastes, together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. A Japanese word, umami can be translated to ‘pleasant savoury taste’ and has come into light as of recently as people are discovering this extra flavour that is in a lot of dishes we’ve always known and loved. In the western world it has only started to be recognised whilst other cultures have been creating dishes intentionally using umami flavours out for over 100 years (lookin’ at you Japanese!) 

Its effect is to balance taste and round out the overall flavor of a dish and is often referred to as ‘meaty’, ‘brothy’ or ‘yummy’ but is notoriously hard to pinpoint. So- what is it?

Slow roast tomato bulgar wheat

Why? Without getting too hectic.. It’s basically a naturally occurring molecule called L-glutamate which is also present in the additive MSG, which, also, tastes fantastic. It sends feel good messages to the brain that are the same sort of feel good messages junk food sends. This is because the same taste receptor is being stimulated by the L-glutamate as it would with artificial MSG (which is in everything from most salt and vinegar chips, Doritos, flavoured popcorn and shitty fried rice. Basically anything you can’t stop eating!)  

What food gives you the feel good feels without the artificial MSG? Think hard cheeses, meats, rich tomato sauces, soy saucs and broths, anchovies in pasta and roasted potatoes. 

It now makes sense why you always load up your spaghetti bolognese with a tonnne of parmesan, right? There’s just something about it. 

All these foods undergo a molecular change when cooking with heat and the molecule is released, giving the person eating the meal the sensation of umami. Or just damn yummy. It occurs naturally in tomatoes and vegetables if they have been ripened by the sun, so next time your shopping try to avoid tomatoes grown in a greenhouse. 

Slow roast tomato bulgar wheat-4

Well I need some umami in my life?! You can achieve umami bliss by incorporating tomatoes in your meal, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and adding a few anchovies to any pasta dish. For those who need to make a meal and try to recognise the umami taste, this is for you. The taste can be felt on the front of the tongue, or so I was told but I tried really hard to focus on the taste. All I could taste was deliciousness. An umami tasting test – I did the cherry tomato and parmesan

This recipe is so easy to create, moreish and  so delicious that you’ll never want it to end. I know I didn’t πŸ™ Lucky I made a huge batch and froze some! 

This also explains why basically all my recipes contain tomato! Just check out this post here.. 

slow roasted tomato farro

This recipe was inspired by a similar recipe I tried from friend and awesome food blogger, The Hungry Babushka. 6 ripe tomatoes, chopped in half get a generous sprinkle of salt and some olive oil and who into an oven, cut side up on 120 deg cel for 3-4 hours. The labneh is straining in the fridge and the farro goes on to boil with 40 minutes to go. It’s all mixed together with some other delicious ingredients, garnished with pesto and parmesan cheese and voila, the most umamiest meal is born. You can thank me later πŸ˜‰ 

Slow roast tomato bulgar wheat-3 In all honesty, this flavour makes a lot of sense to me. I have always favoured mash potatoes, shepards pie, tofu udon noodle soups and spaghetti napoli with a decent serving of parmesan. Now I just have a great excuse to always have a quality block of parmesan on hand! 

For future reference; here’s some links: 

Some people think it shouldn’t be recognised as a flavour on it’s own – what do you think? I’d love to her in the comments below. 

Have a wonderful day, Bec xx

slow roasted tomato farro

Slow roasted tomato farro with labneh and pesto

Bec Thexton
A delicious rich farro risotto with slow roasted tomatoes, labneh and homemade pesto
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 45 mins
Servings 4


  • 6 large sun ripened tomatoes cut in half
  • 2 cups farro/barley/aborio rice
  • 1 400 g tin diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup labneh recipe in recipe index
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • pesto if desired or basil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan cheese


  • Pre heat the oven to 120 deg cel (235 deg f) and place the tomatoes, halved and seasoned on a baking tray and slow roast for at least 2 hours. Can roast for up to 4. Check half way through
  • Once tomatoes are almost done (1.5-2.5 hour mark) cook your farro/barley/aborio rice as per packet instructions. You can cook in stock if you wish.
  • Once your grain is cooked, drain and return to a large pot. Melt in the slow roasted tomatoes, tin of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper and lemon juice.
  • Top with labneh, pesto, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper and serve.


You can garnish with basil leaves or thyme as opposed to making/using pesto.
Labneh also not necessary. This is delicious on it's own!

(14) Comments

  1. […] the Umami flavour profile really is. If you’re sitting there going “What the hell is UMAMI!?!?!?” never fear, click […]

  2. […] do enjoy spending hours in the kitchen crafting up weird and wonderful recipes, but it’s not often I have a few hours spare just to cook. I’m […]

  3. […] of the cold frosty mornings, there are some delicious things going on in my kitchen. I am loving risotto’s, lentil bolognese and bakes at the moment. Hot coffee is  the first thing I head for in […]

  4. I can’t even begin to say how much I love this post! The recipe sounds fab – I love farro and I’d add tomato to every-friggin’-thing. Being italian and vegetarian, my umami staples are porcini, truffles and tomatoes πŸ™‚
    This post made me think of one time my man’s sister tried potato chips with MSG in it and tasted an MSG flake. She was like ‘well, this stuff tastes like…like tasty’. Ha!

    1. Hahahaha…. it’s exactly that. Damn tasty. That reminds me.. a porcini truffle tomato pasta or pizza is on the list!!! Sounds fantastic xx

  5. This looks so good. I never knew what umami was either.
    Tegan xx – Permanent Procrastination

    1. I’m glad I understand it now, and it makes a lot of sense! x

  6. Wow! You’ve outdone yourself Bec! An awesome recipe and a little lesson too- love it!!! I have nearly all of these ingredients at home, so I’ll definitely be making it (and adding some umami to my life! Thanks for linking up with Fabulous Foodie Fridays! Xx

    1. Thanks Lucy… it’s sooo delicious πŸ™‚ x

  7. My fave way to add umami is miso. Dressings, sauces, veggies, meats, grain-cooking liquids – you name it, I add it.

    I like your new site layout, by the way! πŸ™‚

    1. I luuurve miso. We’re having a miso soup this week yum!

    2. p.s thank you!

  8. For me, adding nutmeg always adds an element of umami to any dish. It seems to have that ‘mouth smell’ that umami requires. x

    1. Ooo I haven’t tried with nutmeg. I shall! x

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