06 September 2012

Fregula con Arselle (Sardinian Pasta with Clams) & Sardegna


My eyes have been lingering at the gray skies the past three days.  The rain won't let up and the temperature dropped by 10 degrees at the least.  The sweltering heat with blue skies and unrelenting sun suddenly paved way to a fierce weather of continuous rain, gray skies and heavy clouds.  The weather forecast says that it was going to be a week of a prelude to autumn then we will go back to summer again.  TODAY.


It was around this period when I went to Sardegna (Sardinia) with my family three years ago.  I was big, very pregnant and about to explode but the pull of the island was too overwhelming.   I have heard repeatedly how beautiful the beaches and the ancient villages are that it was hard to restrain my excitement to finally set foot on THE island.  


My husband had been on frequent day trips there for work in the colder seasons so when his last trip there for work came in on late summer, he decided to stay longer and my son and I joined him so we can take in the last warmth of summer in the island.  The weather was still fantastic and the sun shone the whole week we were there.  North, south, east & west, Sardegna didn't disappoint at all. 

Panoramic point of Baia di Porto Conte (above) and Panoramic point of Isola Piana (bottom)
Gastronomically, Sardegna left a mark in my palate.  The best pasta I ever have had came from this island.   Fregula con arselle is such a curious name but with a remarkable taste.  Fregula (also fregola or freula) is a kind of semolina pasta rolled into irregularly shaped balls with diameters ranging from 2 - 6 mm.  They are rolled in a big clay bowl then toasted in the oven.  They are a bit chewy which sort of reminds of me of minute gnocchi.  They are often described as similar to the Israeli couscous. 

Spiaggia del Lazzaretto (Lazzaretto Beach)
Sardegna has a very long history and culture tracing back from the Paleolithic period where there were some evidences of human visits.  The evidences of the first human settlements are from the Neolithic age at around 6,000 B.C.   I'll spare you all the details about the history of this place.  If you are interested in learning more, hop on to Wikipedia and read about its long history.


What I can suggest to you is spend a week there in summer and laze around in one of their beautiful spiagge (beaches) with crystal clear waters or rent a car and go around the island to discover more than what its pristine nature can give you.  There's a multitude of ancient villages worth seeing.   And of course, you have to try this pasta.

Buon appetito e buon fine settimana!

Castelsardo




Fregula con Arselle (Sardinian Pasta with Clams)


Ingredients:
Serves 4
  • 1 kilo fresh clams (vongole)
  • salt 
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 chili, chopped and seeded
  • 300 g. fregula
  • 1 liter fish stock
  • 200 g. canned tomato puree or pulp (passata di pomodoro o pezzetti) 
  • pepper
Directions:
  1. Most clams nowadays are already pre-purged when you buy them.  To be sure that there's no more sand left, purge them again.  
  2. Rinse the clams under cold running water.  Then leave them in a large bowl with cold water and a lot of salt for at least an hour.  Drain and rinse again.
  3. In a large saucepan without oil, cook the clams in medium - high fire until they all open.  Transfer the clams to a bowl.  Filter the liquid from the clams with a fine mesh and save it in another bowl.
  4. Take away the clams from their shells.  Throw away the ones that didn't open.  Leave some clams in their shells for garnishing. 
  5. Over medium heat, in another saucepan with extra virgin olive oil, sautè the garlic, chili and half of the parsley.
  6. Add the fregula and toast for about 2 minutes.
  7. Ladle some fish stock and tomato puree' in the pan gradually until you finish them like how you would do with risotto.   
  8. Depending on the size of the fregula that you have, the cooking time can vary between 10 - 20 minutes until they become al dente. 
  9. About 5 minutes before the end of cooking, add the clams and the liquid.  Season with pepper and salt (if still needed).
  10. After turning off the fire, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle the remaining parsley.



12 comments:

  1. Lovely photos! I always enjoy visiting your site!

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    1. Oh thank you very much Tessa! I love your blog too! Very much!

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  2. Have to admit the furthest south of Rome I ever did travel was Naples! So have to 'live' my S Italian recipes thru' other people! This is so simple and yet looks so appetizing. Believe one of my friends was 'friends' with fregula and did serve it: thinking cap on to ask some Qs :) !

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    1. It is really delicious because my 6-year old son asked for 3 servings of this one and is already asking me to make another batch! LOL! If the little guys like it, then the big guys would too. Thanks!

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  3. Gorgeous photos of Sardegna - you make me want to hop on a plane! :) I love this pasta dish too - I've read about fregula but never had the chance to try it. Beautiful presentation!

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    1. Laura, you have to try fregula! I think you will like it. They are available online. Thanks!

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  4. I want to go to Sardinia!!!!!! Ahhhhh! In the meantime, I will dream of the Sardinian sun and beach through your food.

    So...it does rain in Rome. hehehe.

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    1. Thankfully, it rained even if I wasn't so crazy about it. Crops had been suffering with no rain at all all summer.

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  5. I love clams! This recipe looks beautiful and delicous, but I have to say Bongole in the picture is my favorite pasta!!!! I just drooled looking at that picture. Man, I want to live in Italy... still hoping to be your 3rd kid. lol.

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    1. If you love vongole, then you must try this pasta Nami! The pasta itself is perfect for the mixture but maybe you can substitute it with some other small pasta.

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  6. Your pictures bring back some great memories. My husband and I fell in love with Sardegna when we first visited and we couldn't get enough so we returned the following year. We've explored the coastal towns all around the island and I'd love to return someday to see even more of it. I remember eating this dish (or a variation of it) more than a few times. I hardly ever see fregula pasta here, though. When I do, I'm making this for sure. Love the pictures!

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    1. Sardegna is really beautiful and the food is also something to explore. I was happy with my trip there and like you, I would like to go back there again, without a baby in the tummy this time! :-)

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I would love to read what you think!