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.
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.
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
freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
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.
An obvious choice is a Vermentino from Sardinia, but another full-bodied coastal Italian white will do, too.
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.