Seaside Fregola Salad

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Italians really don’t like to cook in the summer. When the summer starts, so do the lighter and easier-to-prepare meals. Cooking and sweating away in the hot kitchen is no fun especially when you can be outside. If you have any outdoor space to cook or eat, a patio, balcony, or a garden, the grill is lit and a table is set for dinner; ready for a night of food and long conversation with friends and family in the heat of summer.

The ultimate place to be at this time of year is at the seaside or in the mountains. All the better when you’ve made a meal that can be served at room temperature or out of the fridge. Numerous chefs of IG fame love to set up makeshift kitchens on the sand and cook away.

For this dreamy summer recipe, I’m using a pasta from Sardinia called Fregola Sarda. Sardinia is an Italian island located off the western coast of Italy, just to the south of Corsica. It has over 1000 miles of coastline and a very mountainous interior. The unique cuisine of the island includes fregola, a small, round pasta, similar to Israeli couscous, that is sold dried and toasted, giving it a slightly nutty flavor. It is becoming much more popular here in the US and much easier to find in your local market.

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There are many ways to prepare this unique pasta. For this recipe, I have paired it with eggplant, yellow peppers, zucchini, and peas for a delicious chilled summer salad. You can really go wild with the basic approach I have used here. Substitute any of your favorite vegetables for a perfect in-season meal. Keep with the theme and stay cool by making it ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For another recipe idea using fregola, my sister, Michele, visited Sardinia a while back and posted a delicious traditional fregola recipe: Sardinian Fregola with Clams, another perfect summertime meal.

Buon estate (happy summer) 🥂🌴😎 . . . .

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Seaside Fregola Salad

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This fresh summertime meal can be eaten at room temperature or chilled. If refrigerated, remove it to warm up a little so the oil turns back to a liquid.

You could also us couscous or Israeli couscous as the base. Follow the package instructions for these pastas. 

Omit the shrimp for a vegetarian version.



For the pasta:

  • ¼ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 ½ cups fregola sarda
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 pinch saffron (or 1 dried bay leaf)
  • 1 small Italian eggplant or 1 larger Japanese eggplant, cut into rounds and if large, cut rounds into halves or quarters
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped and divided
  • A pinch red chili flakes or 1 Fresno chili, seeds and viens removed then chopped
  • 1 red / 1 yellow bell pepper, seeds and viens removed then chopped
  • 1 medium sized zucchini, cut into rounds and if large, cut rounds into halves or quarters
  • 1 cup good quality frozen peas
  • Fresh basil
  • About 1015 medium to large shrimp (shells on or off as you like)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Cook the fregola: In a small sauce pan, heat the vegetable stock to a boil. Add a pinch of saffron or a dried bay leaf. Salt the broth as you would pasta water. 
  2. In another pot over medium heat, add a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until soft but not browned. Add the fregola pasta and stir a little to let it soak up the oil.
  3. Add the hot broth and stir. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low boil. Cook with the pot lid half-on until al dente (the pasta I bought said 14 minutes). Add more broth or water if the pan runs low. 
  4. When al dente, some broth should be left. Remove from heat and cover until room temperature. The rest of the broth will absorb into the pasta.
  5. Make the vegetables: Set a large frying pan over medium heat. Add a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
  6. Add the eggplant and a pinch of salt. Lightly fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove to bowl. Add a few more tablespoons of olive oil. Add one clove of the chopped garlic and cook until softened.
  7. Add the peppers and zucchini. Cook until softened but not overly cooked. Add the peas and cook until heated through. Add vegetables to the bowl with the eggplant.
  8. In the same pan, add a little more olive oil and heat. Add the remaining garlic and cook until softened. Add the shrimp, tossing until pink and cooked through. Remove from the heat.
  9. Make the salad: Add the cooked fregola to the vegetables. Gently tear the basil leaves and add.
  10. Drizzle and toss with olive oil and ½ squeezed lemon. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning and add more oil and lemon juice as you wish.
  11. Top with the shrimp and serve.

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