Fregola (pronounced FRAY-gola). Frego-what? Reaction from most of my friends. This adorable and tasty little Sardinian pasta has been gaining acceptance here in the United States and is now easier to find. (Check your local Italian market or google Fregola – there are a ton of places to order online including Amazon.com!) It is often referred to as Sardinian couscous but is much tastier and larger and has more texture than its couscous cousin. The pasta is made from semolina rubbed together with a bit of water forming little tiny balls. The pasta is then toasted which gives it a nutty, roasted taste – yummm! Fregola exists in a range of sizes and is typically married with fresh clams and tomatoes like this wonderful dish that I had in Bosa and recreated here. The sky is the limit for this little gem – I found Italian and English recipes for fregola with beans, with pancetta and pecorino, with potatoes and celery. A simple preparation is to cook the fregola in a good amount of boiling salted water or stock and toss with olive oil, butter or both. Grate some fresh pecorino or parmigiano on top. Wala! Yummy, quick meal. Combine it with sauteed wild mushrooms to rest beside lamb, beef stew. The recipe below is simple and quick to prepare – the tasty broth bathes and infuses the fregola with the rich flavor of clams, tomatoes and broth as it simmers. Simple and heavenly. This is mouthwatering good – serve lots of warm, toasty bread to soak up the broth and….enjoy! A presto….
Sardinian Fregola with Clams (Fregola sarda con le arselle)
4 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
About 2 cups diced tomato (either canned or fresh plum tomatoes)
Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
Pepper, to taste
1 cup whte wine
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 cups of good quality chicken broth
2 cups fregola
Wash and scrub clams. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot. (I used a large Le Creuset.) Add the minced garlic and cook over moderately high heat for approximately 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes, a pinch of hot pepper flakes and pepper, to taste. Cook until garlic and tomatoes soften (abut 3 or 4 minutes). Add the wine and parsley and simmer for approximately 5 minutes.
Place the clams, in a single layer, on top of the mixture and cover tightly. (It may take a few batches to accommodate all the clams.) Cook over moderately high heat until the clams open, probably about 5 mins. Discard any clams that do not open. As they open, scoop out the clams into a large bowl. Repeat with second batch, if required.
Once all the clams are cooked, add 4 cups of good quality chicken broth to the yummy clam broth and bring to a boil. Add 2 cups of the fregola pasta. Bring to a boil, if not already doing so. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender to the bite (about 15 minutes).
Adjust the pepper and hot pepper seasonings. Add salt to taste (I have not had to add any at all to this dish). Put the clams back into the wonderful broth to reheat for a second and then spoon into shallow bowls. Sprinkle with additional chopped parsley and serve immediately with freshly warmed toasted bread. HEAVENLY!!