Fregola or fregula is one of the typical pasta shapes from Sardinia (the other one is malloreddus). It is like very thick spaghetti made from durum wheat, cut into short pieces and then toasted. It is a bit like large couscous and can be cooked like risotto as I did in this recipe for fregola alle vongole (with clams), but when I was in Sardinia I noticed that it was also served “in brodetto” which basically means slightly soupy. That means a lot less stirring, so less work, and it is very good as well. The most common dishes I saw where fregola with clams or with mussels, and they can be in bianco (“white”) or with tomatoes. Since I already posted a version with clams, this time I’m doing mussels. The juices that are released by the mussels when they are cooked is very tasty and an important component for turning this into a delicious dish. It is pretty straightforward and can be prepared in less than half an hour. Here’s how.
For 2 servings
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) mussels
130 grams (2/3 cup) fregola
flat leaf parsley (stems and leaves)
1 clove garlic
peperoncino flakes, to taste
250 ml (1 cup) pureed peeled tomatoes (fresh or canned)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
120 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
Rinse the mussels and scrub them if needed. Check if they are closed (discard if not) and put them in a frying pan. Add 120 ml of dry white wine and chopped parsley stems.
Cover and bring to a boil.
Cook until all the mussels have opened. Do not cook longer than necessary (sometimes a few mussels won’t open; discard those).
Strain the mussel liquid first through a colander…
…and then through kitchen paper (an old coffee filter is handy for this). Take most of the mussels out of their shells, but keep 12 or so nice looking mussels in their shells for garnish.
Dry the frying pan with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in it. Peel a clove of garlic and cut it into 2 pieces. Tilt the pan off the heat and ‘deep fry’ the garlic in the oil to flavor to oil. Discard the garlic as soon as it turns golden.
Add 250 ml of pureed tomatoes.
Season to taste with peperoncino (chilli) flakes. Do not season with salt, as the mussel liquid is very salty by itself.
Bring the tomatoes to a boil and add the fregola.
Stir and add about half of the filtered mussel liquid.
Cook over medium heat for about 13 minutes…
…stirring now and then.
Add a bit more of the mussel liquid if it becomes too dry. But be careful with the saltiness; it may be wise to taste a little first and add water instead if it is already salty enough.
When the fregola is almost tender but still firm to the bite, add the mussels. Taste and add some more mussel water (or a bit of salt) if it is not salty enough, but that is not very likely.
Add a tablespoon of minced parsley leaves and stir. Turn off the heat.
Place the mussels in their shells on top of the fregola…
…and cover. Allow to rest for a couple of minutes while the mussels are reheated.
Serve on preheated plates, garnished with the mussels in their shells.
A Vermentino from Sardinia would be a great choice, but many other dry unoaked white wines from a warmer climate will work as well. The dish packs quite a bit of flavor, so the wine should have enough body.
Pasta with bell peppers and sausage is a quick and tasty pasta dish. One of those that takes about as long as is needed to cook the pasta. It took me 22 minutes to cook this dish from start to finish, including taking all the photographs. This meal has all the major food groups: carbs, proteins, and vegetables. It is delicious and easy and you don’t need any processed foods. So don’t tell me you don’t have time to cook a proper meal from fresh ingredients when you got home from work. Instead, just prepare this and enjoy it with your family! The combination of sweet Italian sausage with bell peppers works very well. Especially with some additional depth of flavor added by white wine, basil, cream, and tomato paste. The cream is important as it rounds out the tartness of the peppers, sausage, tomato, and wine.