Fregula is in. Chefs in the US have discovered the southern Sardinian pasta, and are rapidly bringing it to the forefront of culinary consciousness. This means that it will flare out and then completely disappear from the US in a year or so. In Italy, any particular food item you hear about depends on regional traditions, in the US, it depends on the fickleness of time. We are now deep into fregula time. Enjoy it while it lasts. Like true love, you can expect three years max.
Fregula is made of coarse-ground semolina and formed into little pellets, then toasted. Usually, you’ll find them in the southern half of Sardinia, served with clams and called fregola con arselle.
In any case, last night Martha brought home some shrimps and scallops, and I thought of the fregula we had in the cupboard. Mint grows profusely in our garden, and the neighbor has more ripe tomatoes than she can eat, so that made up the sauce list. Mint is pretty traditional in Sardinia.
Putting everything together was simple. I peeled the shrimp and put the peels in a pot of water to boil for the fregula (shrimp shells have more shrimp flavor than the shrimp meat itself, so why waste it?). Martha chopped a couple cloves of garlic. When the water boiled I removed the shrimp shells and put in the fregula.
Meanwhile, I got a skillet hot hot hot, added some olive oil and plopped the shrimp in to sear for a half minute on each side or so. I removed them and did the same to the scallops. Then I reduced the heat, added the garlic for 15 seconds, deglazed the pan with wine, then threw in a couple chopped tomatoes. When the fregula was about done, I returned the seafood to the pan, drained the fregula and added it to the pan and tossed it around a few minutes before adding the mint and a bit of the pasta water because the sauce seemed a bit dry .
And it was done. It looked good. It tasted good. It might not have been traditional, but who cares?
Read more: From the San Francisco Chronicle: Sardinia’s best-kept secret comes out.
To find out more about fregula as you might find it on an Italian menu, see Italian Menu Master