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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.