Fregula Con Vongole, A Tradtional Pasta Dish From Sardinia

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 (A Sardinian Pasta) With Clams

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.

Posted by

I travel the back roads of the world, sharing great food and interesting places and enjoyable pastimes.

173 thoughts on “Fregula Con Vongole, A Tradtional Pasta Dish From Sardinia

  1. I did not grow up cooking seafood, but I absolutely love it and have been collecting cookbooks to help me learn how to do this strange thing. 🙂 This dish looks wonderful! 🙂

    1. Hi Krista, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment. It is funny that I didn’t grow up on seafood either only fried fish on the rare occasion. Now I prepare it quite often.

    1. Hi Lea Ann, I think this is a pasta that you can eat anytime of the year. I should be able to find the pasta at an Italian specialty store. Thank you for your comment.

    1. Hi Tanya, I discovered this pasta just recently and love both its nutty taste and chewy texture. I have a feeling that you will probably have to get your pasta on one of your trips to London or online. The small clams were good.

      1. Your clams must be tiny. Just guessing, I would say that the shell of these are probably about the size of your largest Euro coin if my memory serves me correctly.

      2. Yes, ours are tiny 😦 although in the north of Spain they have some which sound more like yours. They don´t reach us down here in the south very often though!

    1. Hi Smidge, I’m happy that I could supply you with the recipe. Nice to hear that you have tried fregula. A restaurant in Portland, Maine serves this dish as an special appetizer sometimes. Actually, an Italian market in Portland is where I purchased my pasta. Enjoy!

    1. Hi Laura, I would think that if there is a specialty market in Cologne that carries Italian products you might find it there. Otherwise, I guess you could order it online.

    1. Hi Karen, Thank you for your nice compliment. You could use Israeli couscous but the texture and nuttiness would not be there. If you do use it to make the dish, I would suggest toasting the couscous to a golden brown first.

  2. I”ve long bee fascinated with the food of Sardinia, though I have never visited there. This dish looks so inviting. What a great combination of flavors.

    1. Hi Victoria, Thank you for your nice compliment. I think that some of the ingredients and flavors are similar to those found in North Africa. The Sardinian sailors brought back ingredients from there in their trading.

  3. Oh my goodness that looks absoutely divine Karen. Sardinia is one of the islands in the Med I’ve yet to visit, I must put it back up to the top of the list. Med island food is in my mind just perfect! And now I’m going to look out for this kind of pasta – totally new to me

    1. Hi Claire, Thank you very much for your nice compliment. I think the pasta is new in our area as well…I only have seen it at one Italian Market in Portland, Maine. I’ll have to buy a couple of bags for the winter when we are back in New Hampshire. I would think that you could find it in a specialty food store in London.

    1. Thank you Ambrosiana, for your lovely compliment. I haven’t seen the pasta in New Hampshire. I bought mine in a wonderful Italian market in Portland, Maine. I’m always on the lookout for new and different food products. I’m glad that I prepared a favorite dish of yours.

  4. I don’t recall ever having Fregula, Karen, but I have enjoyed vongole many times, just last week, in fact. Your recipe is a little different from what I prepare and I’d like to give it a try. I bet that Italian market will have Fregula and, if they do, I’ll be heading to the fishmonger directly after. 🙂

    1. Hi John, I don’t think you see fregula too often outside of Sardinia. I think it is a relatively new item in our country that you will find in the specialty markets and some trendy restaurants. I hope you get a chance to try it…it’s chewy texture and nutty flavor is very different from other pastas.

  5. That’s absolutely gorgeous! I love how you’ve presented it. I’ve never managed to find fregula anyway. Perhaps I could order it, but that seems a little expensive. I’ll keep my eyes peeled…

    1. Hi Frugal, Thank you so much for your nice compliment. I do hope you can find fregula somewhere at a reasonable price. Since it doubles in size when cooked and is heartier than other pastas, I find it goes farther than most dried pastas.

    1. Hi Charlie, Thank you for your nice compliment. It is good to know that you have seen it in the stores. I think you would enjoy it as the pasta is very different from others both in taste and texture.

    1. Hi Kay, Thank you for your nice compliment. I have made this dish several times and really do enjoy it. Sometimes there are glitches in WP…thanks for pressing the button again. I appreciate your following along.

  6. I have never heard of fregula! I must see if I can get it here (but I doubt, even though there are lots of surprising Italian regional products). Thank you for this discovery!
    It looks fabulous. I love pasta with clams.

    1. Hi Sissi, Thank you for your nice compliment. I don’t think most people have heard of fregula. I know that the pasta can be ordered online but perhaps one of your specialty markets will have it. It is a nice change from regular pasta with clams as the fregula is cooked in the clam broth.

  7. You’ve made me so hungry! Karen I love this recipe. The fregula pasta is fabulous and combined with the clams, wine and all the other deliciousness this looks like the perfect summer meal.

  8. I’ve not seen Fregula before, but perhaps they may have it in our international farmer’s market. Your clams are so lovely, how I wish we were closer to the sea here. We can get pretty fresh seafood, but it never tastes the same as when one is coastal. Lovely dish!

    1. Hi Betsy, You might be able to get the fregula at your international market…if not it can be ordered online. If you have trouble finding fresh clams, some markets have chopped frozen clams that could be used successfully in this recipe. I keep them in my freezer for making clam chowder.

  9. I had to read over the recipe carefully because I thought the pasta that you were using was Israeli couscous, the much larger version of those little grains that we’re more familiar with. I’m very tempted to make this dish as I have a package of shelled clams in my freezer waiting for inspiration. We’ll have to see though what my tummy calls for. Thank you for this very innovative new clam dish. 🙂

    1. Hi Boleyn, I think a lot of people might think this dish was made with Israeli couscous but fregula when cooked doubles its size. It has a chewy texture and nutty flavor that Israeli couscous doesn’t have. Thank you for your nice comment and I’m glad you like this new dish.

    1. Hi Francesca, I know what you mean. When we travel in Europe and I go to the markets, I wish I was staying in a place that had a wonderful kitchen. I’m sure you will definitely find this dish on the menu when you travel to Sardegna. Let me know if you get a chance to try it on your visit.

    1. Hi France, I’m glad you like the recipe. I’m always on the lookout for new food products to try and I am very happy with the fregula. Its’ taste and texture is so different from usual pasta.

  10. Little Chef, you have done it again …. stunning photo, simple recipe … clams I have problems with – love mussels, but calms .. don’t know what it’s with them and me. The dish looks AWESOME!

    1. Thank you Viveka, for your lovely compliment…I really do appreciate it coming from a real chef. Actually, I think mussels would be good served this way as well.

      1. I’m sure mussels can be used instead of clams … your photo are so good … it’s like the smell comes through the screen. Nothing fancy, just a good shot of good food.

      2. Never been to Sardinia .. suppose to be beautiful – haven’t been a lot to Italy at all .. on the Italian Rivera around Genoa and Rome.

  11. Last night I made something like this with pasta for 10 people. There were no leftovers, so I guess it turned out OK. The clams were maybe the best I’ve ever had, so fresh and flavorful.

    1. Hi Lulu, We are very lucky to have such an abundance of fresh seafood here in New England. Pasta for 10…you must have big pots. I’m sure it was delicious.

    1. Hi Alesandra, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment. This is a very tasty dish…I hope you get a chance to try it.

  12. I have never cooked fregula, but have seen it in Italian markets. There is one a block from my house and they have the most wonderful pastas…I will pick up some fregula and try it out. Lovely post Karen.

    1. Thank you Teresa, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I happy to hear that you have seen fregula in your Italian market. I think you will enjoy this unique pasta.

  13. You know I have never tried Fregula, looks delicious.
    i have to look for it now, do you think wholefoods carries it?
    Anyway very very delicious dish…
    Thanks fro sharing Karen and you have a gorgeous week!!

    1. Thank you Reem, for your very nice compliment. I’m glad that you enjoyed with post. We don’t have a Whole Foods but from what I’ve heard it is a terrific store. If you don’t see it in the store, maybe they could order it. I do know that you can buy it online.

      1. Hi Carol, We are planning to go to the Whole Foods in Portland some day when we have a cooler. We went to Trader Joe’s a couple of weeks ago. I don’t really know what I was expecting but I was very disappointed. Everyone raves about the market…maybe the Portland store is just very small.

      2. Definitely bring a cooler to WF and I don’t think you will be disappointed. TJ’s are all very small – their strength is pantry staples and frozen foods. They don’t really try to compete in the “fresh” aspect. WF is expensive for those items (so I get them at TJ) but I do love the WF prepared foods/salad bar ( go hungry -they have tables to eat at) and the bakery and cheese departments are great. (See my post on “robusto”) I shop at both for those reasons. I do have some issues with WF flying in organics from around the world, showing they are just a big corporation after all. Buy local is best but I can’t help but be “romanced” by these stores sometimes! LOL – bet you didn’t think you were going to get an amateur analysis!

    1. Hi Celia, Thank you so much for your very nice compliment. I bet your Italian supermarket will have it. Fregula is said to have originated in North Africa so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Lebanese mohgrabieh is similar.

  14. Sounds like Israeli couscous, Karen, I wonder if the texture would be the same. I adore the texture of the Israeli couscous, so I would probably love this too.

    1. Hi Eva, Thank you for your comment. To answer your question, the texture of fregula is very different from Israeli couscous. Uncooked, it has a rough and porous texture. When cooked, the pasta will have doubled in size and have a chewy texture and a nutty flavor. Of course, you could use couscous but I would suggest to first toast it until it turns a golden color. It would not taste quite the same but would still be tasty.

  15. Any pasta with vongole is a winner for me ! I love how the sweetness of the clams flavours the pasta. It’s funny, I’ve never heard or seen of fregola until recently – I had it at a restaurant I went to for my birthday and it was served in chicken stock with rocket and tomato with abalone on top. It was delicious ! I love the chewy texture of it and I guess because it’s so porous is just seemed to suck up all those beautiful flavours.

    1. Hi Carolyn, Thank you for your nice comment. The fregula dish that you had sounds really good. I think the porous texture really does soak up the flavors of the stock that it is cooked in and I love the chewy texture. I know you must have had a wonderful birthday.

    1. Thank you Dana, for your nice compliment. I’m so glad that you learned something new…how to purge the clams. It is terrible to have a shellfish dish and end up with a sandy broth. Even when you purge them, filtering the broth eliminates the last traces of sand.

  16. This is so lovely! Thanks for the info on purging the clams. I have very little experience with seafood (as I live so far from the ocean). I can’t stand poor quality ingredients and would rather just not eat something than lower my standards, you know?

    1. Hi Anna, I am glad that you enjoyed the post and that the information on how to purge clams will be useful. I understand where you are coming from about using the best of ingredients. When I shop, I always ask if a fresh product came in that day. If it doesn’t look perfect, I’ll ask if they have more in the back. Since I like to cook with fresh ingredients, many times I’ll walk away from a product and rethink what I’ll be preparing. Living in New England, I have the availability of a lot of fresh seafood as well as wonderful refrigerated and frozen local products.

    1. I appreciate your very nice compliment, Greg. I always enjoy when someone of Italian heritage enjoys my Italian recipes as I try to be as authentic as I can when I create a recipe.

    1. Thank you Ming, for your lovely compliment. If you can’t find fresh clams, perhaps you might have a source for nice frozen clams. This pasta is also made with a ragu of meat as well.

  17. I love pasta with clams, but don’t know anything about fregula. I’ll have to be on the hunt for it–and Sardinia is on my must-visit list. David and I had gorgeous wine from there on our vacation.

    1. Hi Cucina, Sardinia has wonderful food and wines. I hope that you will be able to find fregula…I think you will like it. Thank you for your comment.

    1. Hi Mary, When you have the freshest of ingredients, simple can stand on its own. I’m glad that you like the recipe. Thank you for your comment.

  18. I have never tried fregula but vongole is very popular Italian dish in Japan (probably as popular as bolognese. Your dish looks very delicious! I love eating clams with pasta…the juice from clams give really nice flavor!

    1. Hi Nami, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice comment. This is a good dish in that the pasta is cooked in the clam broth. It is nice to know that vongole is popular in Japan.

    1. Hi Tandy, I can see why you might not have see fregula. Knowing how much you love pasta dishes, I think it would be a good item to add to your shopping list.

  19. I have not heard of this pasta here, but perhaps because I have not looked. This is a dish we would both love. We are big pasta and seafood fans so together they would have to be good. Diane

    1. Hi Diane, It appears that so many people have not heard of the pasta. I hope you might be able to find it somewhere…if you do I’ll pass the information on the my other readers in France.

  20. Anything with clams is a winner as far as I am concerned – they are so hard to find here in Scotland they are all sold directy to the seafood companies in Spain and France and never hit the markets here because there is so little demand for seafood (apart for fish and chips) yet ironically we have such wonderful fisheries!

    1. Hi Keith, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your interesting comment. It is hard to believe that the majority of your country’s seafood gets shipped to other countries…that really is a shame.

    1. Thank you T.W. for your nice compliment. I don’t think you will have any trouble finding the pasta…you have such nice markets in your area.

    1. A New York Italian will definitely love this recipe, Jed. You better start searching for fregula. I know both of you will love this recipe (that based on the comments from my Italian husband). Thanks for your comment, as aways.

    1. Hi Kristy, Thank you so much for your lovely compliment. Since you love clams, I think this is a recipe that you would really enjoy as the pasta is cooked in the clam broth for addition flavor.

    1. Thank you Amy, for your nice compliment. Living in Manhattan, you will have no trouble finding this pasta. Actually, I’m sure that there are restaurants in the city that have this on their menu. This is a dish that you can definitely make…it is very easy.

    1. Hi Daisy, If you love clams, I know that you will enjoy this recipe. You have such wonderful specialty markets in NYC that you won’t have any trouble getting fregula. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Hi Nazneen, Thank you for the visit and your nice compliment. I’m glad that you have seen fregula…now you will be able to make this traditional Sardinian pasta dish.

    1. Thank you Susan, for your nice compliment. As with many of the foods of Italy, I think this traditional dish is basically found only in Sardinia. If you like spaghetti alla vongole, I think you will enjoy this unique pasta. Cooking it in the clam broth really adds to the overall taste of the dish.

  21. We have a very similar kind of pasta called maftool only this one is cooked in a tomato sauce and with chicken.
    I am embaressed to say I have never tried clams, not a big fan of sea food but I think your reccipe is really tempting

    1. Hi Sawsan, Thank you for your nice compliment. The Sardinians make another fregula dish that is cooked in tomato sauce…I bet it is similar to what you make. I’m sure it is delicious.

    1. Hi Larry, Thank you for your compliment. Corn and clams…actually I have had corn fritters with chopped clams when I lived in Florida at a seafood restaurant.

  22. Hi Karen … first, I love your recipe. Second.. can you identify the specific variety of clams you are using. I have the same type in my freezer and would love to know what they are.

    1. Hi John, Thank you for your nice compliment. I buy my clams from our market in town that unfortunately doesn’t list the name of their clams, oysters, mussels, etc. so I can’t be of help. I asked one time, what kind of corn they were selling and they told me yellow. LOL

  23. I love the idea of a hearty semolina that soaks up those beautiful juices and sauce from the clams. I’m yet to make fregola but I know a few recipes from around which show how quick and simple it is to make. Now you’ve inspired me to try something different 🙂

    1. Hi Alli, I think it is terrific that you want to make the fregola. I would love to hear from you if you end up making it. I’m like you…I like to try new things. Thank you for your nice comment.

  24. OK, so I’m another one that has never seen or, in my case, heard of fregula. However, I do know clams and love them! This dish looks absolutely delicious and something that I know we would love in this house! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful recipe!

    1. Don’t feel bad, MJ. It appears the majority of people haven’t heard of fregula. I think if you have an Italian market or specialty grocer in your area that you should be able to find the pasta. I’m glad you like the recipe…thanks.

  25. I’m so late in the week to read this Karen, please don’t feel you need to reply! But I am so glad I rolled backwards to see what I missed. I think this would be my husband’s dream dish! He just loves linguine with clams and this is so much more! I’m thrilled with the recipe! Hope you’ve had a good week…all is well with me. I just lost track of time! LOL! Debra

    1. Hi Debra, I’m happy whenever you get a chance to stop by. Knowing where you live, I think you should be able to find fregula. I hope your husband enjoys the dish. Have a lovely weekend.

    1. Thank you Ducky, for your nice compliment. It looks like couscous but when you see it uncooked it is golden and very rough textured. When it is cooked it is twice the size of couscous and chewy and nutty tasting.

    1. Thank you Marina, for your lovely compliment. I do think that you should be able to find fregula…if not, you can order it online.

    1. Hi Polkadot, I didn’t realize that clams our hard to get in South Africa. This dish is delicious. I have also made it the same way but used bottled clam juice and sautéed scallops to top the dish.

  26. An absolutely gorgeous version of vongole Karen!! I don’t recall ever seeing fregula but I’ll be keeping my eyes pealed for it now. This is one I’ll be trying for sure and it’s making its way to my bulletin board now. That is a VERY appetizing photo!

    1. Thank you so much Spree, for your lovely compliment. If you can’t find the pasta in an Italian market or specialty store, you can order it online. I hope you will enjoy the dish.

    1. Thank you Jennifer, for your nice compliment. I think that you would enjoy this Sardinian dish. Hopefully you will get to go to the wonderful island someday and then you can let me know how my dish compares.

    1. Hi Bam, You have been very busy and I can see how you may have missed the post. I always appreciate when you take time to visit. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  27. Reblogged this on Fresh Force and commented:
    Love this! this is my 2nd time making. I use Rustichella d`Abruzzo brand of fregula. MY changes are to steam the clams in a mix of wine and water, 8 cloves garlic + 1 whole onion, cook the tomatoes with the onion/garlic, 2 cups fregula, 36 clams, 2 bottles clam juice, add a zucchini. Try it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s