Fregula with Clams (Fregola con Cocciua Niedda)

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Each region of Italy has its own pasta shapes. One of the typical shapes of Sardinia (Sardegna) is fregula or fregola, made from durum wheat flour and water, and similar to cous cous. The store-bought variety is a bit like thick spaghetti, cut into very short pieces. It can be made by hand, but the advantage of the store-bought version is that it is doesn’t only save you the time to make your own, but it is also easier to cook without risk of overcooking. The store-bought fregula that I found were toasted, which adds another layer of flavor.

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As Sardinia is an island, it’s not a surprise that a traditional preparation of fregola is with vongole (clams). They are called cocciua niedda in the local dialect. The dish is prepared very much like risotto, with the juices released by the clams as stock. There are versions with or without tomato. This dish is simple but loaded with flavor. As usual, my version is relatively ‘low carb’, using a double amount of vongole. You could also make 4 servings with a kilo of vongole, but then you will need to add fish stock to have enough stock to cook the fregula.

Ingredients

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For 2 servings

1 kilo (2.2 lbs) vongole

125 grams (3/4 cup) fregula

120 ml (1/2 cup) sieved tomatoes (passata, tomato puree) (optional)

80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine

salt

freshly ground black pepper

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic

1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley

Preparation

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Dissolve 30 grams (4 tsp) salt into 1 litre (4 cups) of water to create water that is as salty as the sea. Allow the clams to soak in this water for at least an hour. The poor devils will think they are back in the sea and will purge themselves of any sand and other impurities.

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Discard the salt water and soak the clams briefly in clean unsalted water to remove the salt. Discard any clams that don’t close in the unsalted water.

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Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan. Add the clove of garlic and tilt the pan until the garlic clove is golden, then discard the garlic.

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Add the clams…

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…and the white wine.

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Cover and cook over high heat…

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…until the clams have opened. Do not cook them longer than necessary. Turn off the heat.

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Strain the juices released from the clams, and filter with kitchen paper or a cheese cloth into a saucepan. Keep the clam juices hot.

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Take most of the clam meat out of the sheels, reserving 12 nice looking clams for garnish.

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Put the remaining clove of garlic in a frying pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Tilt the pan until the garlic clove is golden, then discard the garlic.

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Add a tablespoon of the parsley and stir for a minute.

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Add the sieved tomatoes, if using, then stir for a minute.

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Add the fregula.

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Stir until the fregula is coated with tomato.

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Now cook the fregula as if it were risotto, using the hot clam juices for stock. So add a ladle of the clam juices…

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…and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the clam juices have been absorbed.

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Repeat adding clam juices and stirring until the fregula is cooked al dente, about 13 minutes. Switch over to hot water or fish stock if you run out of clam juices.

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Add the clam meat.

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Stir and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Season with salt only after tasting, as the clam juices are already very salty.

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Heat the reserved clams in their shells back up in bit of boiling water, just enough to create some steam.

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Serve on preheated plates and garnish with the remaining parsley and reserved clams.

Wine pairing

An obvious choice is a Vermentino from Sardinia, but another full-bodied coastal Italian white will do, too.

Flashback

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This cauliflower risotto  is very creamy with most of the cauliflower used to make a cauliflower puree and the remainder roasted in the oven for some additional flavor and crunch. As a finishing touch I added some roasted almonds.

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17 thoughts on “Fregula with Clams (Fregola con Cocciua Niedda)

  1. Another great but simple Italian island recipe! Yes, we can get fregula even in countryside Down Under tho’ a new packet will have to go on my next shopping order 🙂 !! You do not state the length you usually cook the clams – 2-3 minutes? Would like to try!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful recipe! I like that you cook it “risotto-style”, and I’ll definitely try the method the next time I make this dish (I make a similar recipe with mussels or razor clams when I can find them). I bet it soaks up all the delicious clam flavor and just makes everything even better!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. that’s the one…hang on….just checked. I’ve got an unopened packet in the cupboard and its not out of date (July 2016) – do something with orzo and I will follow it up. For the laughs (as my kids say – it’s a youth thing)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t tried that, but I’m sure you are right. I’ve never seen risotto alle vongole in Italy before and I’m pretty sure it is not a traditional dish, but I’m pretty sure it would be delicious all the same. With or without tomato.

      Like

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