First things first, I'm sure you are all wondering..."what the heck is fregola?" Very simply put, it's a special kind of pasta hailing from Sardinia, made by mixing water and semolina in a large terracotta bowl and then by kneading the grains between the palm of your hands with a circular movement until tiny irregular balls are formed.
Now, did I do all that? Absolutely not. I bought it a the grocery store for 2 Euros for a pound. Rumor has it they also sell it in specialty stores around the U.S., although I'm not sure how much it would cost over there. Regardless, I highly recommend it. Its rough and porous quality is ideal for absorbing the scents and flavors of the ingredients you cook it in because, unlike regular pasta, you don't cook it in water. You cook it in whatever sauce you are going to serve it with.
Since it was my first time making fregola I went with the most traditional Sardinian recipe I could find: fregola with clams. Definitely worth a try.
FREGOLA WITH CLAMS
2 pounds littleneck clams, soaked in water and salt to remove sand
5 garlic cloves
A glass of dry white wine
32 ounces vegetable broth
1/2 pound fregola
1/2 pound chopped canned tomatoes
Salt and crushed red pepper
Rinse clams and soak in water and salt for about an hour to remove sand. Rinse again.
In a large casserole pour a few tablespoons of olive oil, add two garlic cloves and saute for a few minutes. Add clams and wine and cook over medium high heat until clams open. Remove from heat. Throw away any clams that haven't opened and separate most clams from shells, discarding shells (leave a few for decoration if you wish). Reserve cooking liquid.
In the same casserole heat up olive oil, add remaining garlic and crushed red pepper and saute two minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, cook for a couple of minutes, then add broth, reserved cooking liquid and the fregola. While fregola cooks keep an eye on it, should it absorb all broth add a little water. Cook for about ten minutes. At the very end, add clams. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh basil on top.