Spaghetti or linguini with clams is a very popular dish in most Italian restaurants, wherever in the world you may be dining. The Italian island of Sardinia has its own version of pasta and clams known as Fregula (Fregola) Sarda con vongole. The dish can be found on the menu, whether you are in the tiniest seaside osteria or a fine resort restaurant.
Fregula Sarda is a pasta made from semolina rolled into rough, porous balls that are dried and then toasted until golden. They resemble couscous but are larger and heartier with a nutty taste. Once cooked they will have doubled in size with a chewy texture. The pasta can be found in Italian markets, specialty stores or online.
Fregula With Clams
- 2 dozen small clams, purged and cleaned
- 1 cup of water, plus extra as needed
- 3 T. olive oil plus extra to drizzle
- 1/2 small onion, chopped fine
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 c. white wine
- 1 c. clam broth ( 8 oz. bottled)
- 1 c. fregula
- 2 or 3 plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded, diced
- 1/2 tsp. chili flakes or to taste
- 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced plus additional for garnish
- salt and pepper to taste
To clean and purge the clams: Scrub clams well and put in a bowl of salted water and let sit for an hour. Carefully lift the clams out, rinse and repeat the procedure. Carefully lift out the clams again and discard the water. Your clams should be purged of most of their sand.
Heat a pan, add the one cup of fresh water and the purged clams and steam until opened. Discard any clams that do not open. Remove the clams and set aside. Strain the clam juice through a coffee filter or cheesecloth and reserve.
Heat the 3 Tbsp. of olive oil and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook until soft but not colored. Add the wine and reduce to half. Add the reserved clam juice and the clam broth, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and add fregula, reduce the heat and simmer until tender (approx. 15 – 20 min.), stirring so that the pasta doesn’t stick. If the pasta appears dry, add additional water. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the tomato, chili flakes and parsley and cook for a few additional minutes.
Spoon the fregula into bowls, top with the reserved clams, parsley and drizzle with extra olive oil.
Fregula is a wonderful pasta to try. It can be cooked in boiling salted water like regular pasta and dressed with butter and herbs or served with your favorite sauce. It can also replace barley in soup recipes. I would love to know what you think of fregula and how you have used it.