10.04.2009

Fregola: Sardinia's Best-Kept Secret?

A few months ago Giada used fregola in a salad and I was totally intrigued. And embarrassed to admit I'd never heard of it. A quick search turned up the following: fregola has an ancient history in Sardinia; it's actually a pasta made by rubbing tiny grains of semolina together with a bit of water, toasting them, rubbing them together again, toasting them again, and so on until you end up with tiny pasta balls. It looks like Israeli couscous, but is more pebbly, less smooth and has all kinds of gorgeous toasty hues. And it has a nutty, wheaty, roasted taste that couscous lacks. Sounds interesting, right?


Finding it was another story. Not easy. (Although someone told me Whole Foods had it- mine didn't.) You may have to shop at International grocery stores or Italian delis to get it. I finally gave up and ordered mine from Urban Herbs. Or check Amazon- they can find anything!  Dried pasta keeps well, so you might want to stock up on it if you're a fan. Almost all brands are imported from and made in Italy.


Why bother? I bet your Italian friends could give you some great answers to that question. But here's what I discovered: you can add it to soups, make a salad with it or use it in a hot side dish. How about using it in tabbouleh instead of bulgur wheat? You could just cook it in some broth and serve it warm with a touch of olive oil and topped with some grated pecorino. In fact, use it any way you might use a small pasta- fregola has so much more flavor and character.

I decided to try both a salad and a side dish and I can tell you right now the side dish was far and away my favorite… it was fantastic. You can use up that zucchini you have left in your garden too. And it was just as good the next night- if you are lucky enough to have any left over. Chocolate &  Zucchini posted this recipe in 2004- pure luck I found it... thank you, Clotilde, thank you! That's how good it is. This is comfort food personified. No kidding. On a rainy, stormy or snowy day I would love to cozy up with a big bowl of this. I've made it several times already; everyone loved it- and nobody knew what it was!

Cooking fregola is simple enough. I used 4 cups of chicken broth (you can use plain salted water too) and when it came to a boil, I added about 1 1/2 cups of fregola. I let it simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it was done, but still somewhat chewy. (It puffs up; add more broth if necessary) Drain the fregola and cover it to keep it warm.

I promise you, this is a fabulous recipe- addictive even. The recipe is quick, short and to the point. It's finding fregola that takes time!



Fregola Sarda with  Zucchini and Pine Nuts
(Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini, October 5th, 2004 post)

Ingredients:
3 small and slender zucchini
2 cups cooked fregola sarda
2 handfuls of pinenuts, dry toasted
2 ounces parmesan cheese
olive oil
salt
herbes de provence

Method:
Wash and slice three zucchini very thin. Sauté in a bit of olive oil, with herbes de provence to taste and just enough salt to bring out the zucchini flavor. Add the fregola and pinenuts. Grate liberal amounts of parmesan on top and mix in. Serve warm. Serves 2 with leftovers for lunch.

40 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, this looks good! I'll be ordering a bunch and can't wait to try it.

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  2. What a lovely & yummie recipe! I have never seen this type of cous cous before but now I am on the look out!!

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  3. oh wow cool stuff will look for it, what a great and educational post with yummy food will tweet

    Rebecca

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  4. So glad you liked that recipe! It's one of my absolute favorites and I make it often when zucchini's in season.

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  5. I love fregola, though have never cooked it myself. A restaurant I like does a squid ink fregola with seafood--the whole dish is pitch black. It's incredible.

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  6. I've never had fregola. It's gorgeous! I love the shade variations from toasting...I can almost imagine it's nutty flavor! If I can get my hands on some I will definitely be making your recipe! (And oooh, I do love a good ingredient hunt!)

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  7. It sounds so neat! But as SA is Mex Food USA, I know it'll be terribly hard to find it here!

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  8. What a delicious recipe Barbara. I will try it next time. Definitely!

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  9. I'll confess I hadn't heard of it either. Now I need to find some fregola! I'll have to see if our Whole Foods has it. The zucchini recipe sounds delightful!

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  10. I have also never heard of fregola. It does look a bit like pearl couscous, doesn't it.
    I like both your meals you made with it.

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  11. Well, I never heard of fregola sarda...and as you I am very intrigued by it...looks very interesting and sure I'll look for it :-) To me it is somehow similar to Israeli couscous...

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  12. This looks so simple and delicious!

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  13. Hoot and Who will never tell..until Saturday at least!

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  14. I will definitely give this one a try. I have never tried fregola before but an intrigued now!

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  15. I saw Giada make fregola, too, and was also intrigued--thanks for doing all the research and posting.

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  16. This looks beautiful And, I am so in need of cooking inspiration right now (always, really)!
    And thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such a kind comment.

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  17. I haven't heard of this either. Thanks for the tips, I will try to find it and try it!

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  18. i adore fregola. great post. the combo with pine nuts sounds delish!

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  19. I admire your dedication in tracking down that vital ingredient :) I must admit I've never tried it before and am very keen now to have a taste - the zucchini salad looks very tasty and healthy to boot.

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  20. Thanks so much for introducing us to fregola! I love Israeli couscous and regular, I am sure I would love this too - I'll keep an eye out for it.

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  21. It's been such a long time since I've even thought about fregola. It looks delicious with the zucchini.

    Thanks for "sparking" the ol' memory...

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  22. What fun to learn about something new. I've never heard of this before and have added it to my list of products to search for. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. And for your comment.

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  23. I have never had fregola - I'm going to have to look for it now!

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  24. Oh my! I remember having this when I was a child in Italy. So good of you to drop by my blog. Now, I get to come here and relive my childhood.

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  25. That sounds really good (I'd never heard of it either). I'll keep an eye out at the store!

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  26. Both dishes look scrumptious! a wonderful ingredient!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  27. I love the look of this recipe -- it's right up my alley. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog!

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  28. This is also the first time I hear about fregola and it sounds versatile and delicious! Thanks for sharing :)

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  29. well, these delightful little nuggets have definitely been kept a secret from me! thanks for the introduction--both dishes look appealing, but the zucchini side is my favorite--love the crunchy pine nuts!

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  30. Barbara, as one who likes Israeli couscous, I use it in salads & as a side with various stew-like meat dishes.

    Thanks for the heads-up about finding it; I think I will just order, as you did. I am definitely going to try your recipe.

    So glad you stopped by my post about “Jacket Potatoes”. I look forward to reading through more of your fascinating post.

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  31. At the end of October, we have Halloween week at the Pond--with frighteningly delectable goodies!

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  32. I've never had it! I'm anxious to try!

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  33. This looks so interesting ! As well as your blog..I am promising myself to visit many entries:)

    I bought farro in Castelluccio:) I adore it now of course..I bet I will feel the same way about this! Thanks!

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  34. Oh my, I'm so glad I popped over for a visit! Lovely blog. And you won my giveaway! Can you email me with you address, etc? Thanks. And thanks for visiting me, Barbara!

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  35. I've just found your blog--what a treat! I am so intrigued by this recipe. I've never heard of fregola either, but I'm going to try to find it. Serendipitously, on Sunday I'm going to nearby Liege to cook with the La Sardegna all'Estero, a sort of 'friends of Sardinia' here. I'm going to ask them about this. With any luck, they'll have some I can buy! Cross your fingers...

    I'm wondering if you could make a sort of risotto with this??

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  36. Oh, I love learning about new ingredients. It sounds wonderful, and if i ever see it, I'd love to try it. I have to say though, I really kinda hate it w hen there is a chef making something that you have to go to the ends of the earth to find. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  37. Barbara, I'm so excited! I found some fregola! We're going out of town Wednesday till the end of the month, but as soon as we get back I'm going to play with this stuff. THANKS a million for this post.

    I'll let you know how it turns out!

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  38. I like it very much!

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