Fregola with Clams: Recipe from Sardinia.

Fregola with Clams: Recipe from Sardinia.

If you have ever been to Sardinia, you may have come across this delicious seafood dish. Fregola with clams is probably the most well-known Sardinian seafood pasta recipe. It’s also unique to the island, so not a dish you will come across anywhere else in Italy!

Fregola con le arselle

fregola with clams

What is fregola?

Also known as Italian couscous or Sardinian couscous, fregola is basically little balls of pasta traditionally made by hand in a terracotta bowl, called a ‘scivedda’ in the local dialect. It looks very similar to couscous but in reality there are a number of differences.

fregola with clams

The first difference is that couscous is traditionally made from crushed durum wheat, whilst fregola is made with coarsely ground semolina. In addition, couscous is usually steamed. Fregola is often toasted first and then cooked in the broth of the recipe or like rice in a risotto.

toasted Sardinian fregola

You can read more about this interesting and very ancient type of pasta in my post about Sardinian fregola. Making fregola at home is on my to do list. However, I made this fregola with clams recipe using ready-made toasted fregola.

ingredients for fregola with clams on white plate

Where to buy fregola.

Until recently, fregola wasn’t easily available outside of Italy. But, it’s becoming popular and you can find it either online or in some Italian speciality shops. Readers in the US can buy it from Supermarket Italy, an online Italian gourmet food store. I recently collaborated with this online shop  to promote some of their other pasta. In fact, they stock some very good Italian pasta brands. So worth checking out!

small clams cooking in large deep frying pan

Wherever you are, you can also search on Amazon for fregola (also sometimes called Sardinian fregula). I’ve seen a number of different options to buy it there.

cooked small clams in a white bowl

The clams.

Traditionally, Sardinians make this fregola with clams recipe using clams they call ‘arselle’. These are small clams known as wedge clams in English. This mollusk is native to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic coast of Western Europe.

separated clams in a white bowl and chopped parsley in a white bowl

I made this fregola with clams recipe with another type of small clam that Italians call lupini or lupini di mare. These are another type of small clam (striped venus clams in English) which are a popular choice for Italian pasta with clams. In US,  littlenecks would work too. They are the same family as the striped venus clam.

peeled garlic cloves with olive oil in skillet

Making this fregola with clams recipe.

This is actually a pretty simple recipe to make. Many people think of clams as something to eat in a restaurant. But, actually, clams and mussels aren’t difficult to cook and they don’t leave a fishy smell in your kitchen.

tomato concentrate (pasta) in skillet with olive oil

Apart from the clams and the pasta, this fregola with clams recipe has only a few other ingredients. All you need is some garlic, olive oil, tomato concentrate and parsley! Yes that’s it.

tomato paste mixed with water in skillet

Preparing the clams.

The most time consuming part of this fregola with clams recipe is cleaning the clams. The rest is super simple! The clams probably need to be purged. So you have to wash then and then place them in a large bowl with water and salt. Leave them at least an hour. At the end of this time, rinse them again very well under running water and transfer them to a pan large enough for them to open when heated.

clam and tomato sauce cooking in skillet

As they open, you will have to remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate or in a bowl. When they are all open, separate the shells keeping the part that contains the attached mollusk. Collect the remaining liquid in the pan and then, pass it through the mesh of a fine sieve covered with gauze or a thin cloth.

toasted fregola added to clams and tomato sauce in skillet

Once that is done, the rest of this fregola with clams recipe takes just 30 minutes and then you’re ready to enjoy a taste of Sardinia, which I’m sure will have you planning your holiday there soon!

fregola with clams

If you do try this fabulous fregola seafood recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.

Your feedback means a lot to me!

Buon Appetito!

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fregola with clams (long image)
5 from 40 votes
fregola with clams
Fregola with clams: recipe from Sardinia
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
To purge clams
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 45 mins

This delicious seafood pasta recipe is unique to Sardinia. Made with fregola pasta and small clams this is probably the most loved Sardinian pasta dish!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean, Sardinia
Keyword: clams, fregola, fregula, sardinia, seafood, seafood pasta
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 1 kg fresh small clams ( 2.2 lbs) I used lupini (striped venus clams)
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1/2 glass extra virgin olive oil.
  • 2-3 tbsp tomato concentrate (paste)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 1.5 Lts water (6 cups)
  • 6-8 tbsp toasted fregola
Prepare the clams
  1. Wash the clams and place them in a large bowl with water and salt. Leave them at least an hour. At the end of this time, rinse them again very well under running water and transfer them to the fire in a pan large enough for them to open when heated.

  2. As the clams open, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate or in a bowl. When they are all open, separate the shells keeping the part of the valve that contains
    the attached mollusk. We also removed some from the shells completely. Pour the liquid remaining in the pan into a bowl through the mesh of a fine sieve covered with gauze or a thin cloth.

Finish the dish
  1. Chop the parsley and peel the garlic cloves. Heat the olive oil in a separate pan that's wide and has high edges. Add the two peeled garlic cloves and cook until they start to brown and soften. When the garlic is cooked remove it and add the tomato paste. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce is completely soaked in oil. Then add the hot water and bring the sauce to a boil.

  2. When the liquid has boiled for a few minutes, it will be slightly reduced. Add the prepared half clams and the clams without shells if you have them. Then add the filtered clam water
    and a handful of chopped parsley. Bring back to the boil, then add the fregola and cook over medium heat for about twenty minutes. If necessary, add a pinch of salt.

  3. Pour the fregola with clams into serving dishes and serve immediately whilst still hot.

Recipe Notes

I used small clams called lupini (striped venus clams) but you can also use other types of small clams such as littlenecks. This dish is traditionally made with fregola and no other pasta. It might also work with Israeli couscous but I have never tried it!

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fregola with clams

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  • Mikayla
    September 11, 2019 7:05 am

    Every time I visit your blog I find new recipes I can’t wait to try! I love clams and this is a really good way to help me break free of the same old butter garlic sauce I cook them in. I cannot wait to have this!

    • The Pasta Project
      September 16, 2019 3:31 am

      Thank you, Mikayla! Butter garlic sauce sounds delicious too!

  • Amy
    September 9, 2019 12:56 pm

    This whole dish looks amazing. From the sauce to the clams and all the flavor in between! This is pure comfort food—I can’t wait to try!

  • Jo
    September 9, 2019 11:22 am

    Never knew about the fregola pasta. It’s amazing how small and interesting those fregolas are. Clams, that sauce and fregola looks absolutely stunning. Wish I could get my hands on a bowl of this dish now!

  • Jenni LeBaron
    September 7, 2019 6:07 pm

    I’ve never tried Fregola before but it sounds delicious! I love the idea of a toasted pasta similar to a couscous and would enjoy eating this with the clam sauce, as suggested!

  • Candiss
    September 7, 2019 6:57 am

    Clams have been on my mind and this preparation sounds amazing! Nothing like a stew-y pasta dish for early fall!

  • GUNJAN C Dudani
    September 6, 2019 10:26 pm

    It looks delicious and easy too. Since it is pasta this dish will definitely be a winner at my home.

  • Renu
    September 6, 2019 5:37 pm

    Never knew about fregola or a pasta can be also so tiny or small rounds. The dish looks absolutely delicious and the pics are drool worthy. Would love to try this.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:09 pm

      Thank you Renu!

  • Nicoletta De Angelis Nardelli
    September 6, 2019 2:11 pm

    We’ve literally just come back from a month in Italy and a week in beautiful Sardinia. Had spaghetti with arselle but not fregola, although it was on the menu. We bought some ready-made and are going to use it. Thanks for all the tips. This dish looks incredible and we know absolutely delicious!

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:08 pm

      How wonderful! You will be able to recreate a little corner of Sardinia with this recipe!

  • Sophie
    September 6, 2019 4:31 am

    Every time I visit your blog, I fall in love with your recipe. It’s simole, authentic and so delicious. Thank you.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:07 pm

      Thank you Sophie, that you love it means a lot to us!

  • Amanda
    September 6, 2019 3:09 am

    I just love these little balls of pasta! It’s so fun for something a little different, and I’m always a big fan of clams. Great recipe!

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:05 pm

      Thank you Amanda!

  • GUNJAN C Dudani
    September 5, 2019 7:55 pm

    We are pasta crazy people at my home and this recipe sounds extremely delicious. I am absolutely making this on Saturday for my friends.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:03 pm

      It’s a perfect meal to share with friends. Hope they love it!

  • Ramona
    September 5, 2019 12:51 pm

    Oh my goodness, the look of this delicious pasta dish! I must find this beautiful pasta and some clams ASAP. I am super hungry right now. What a beautiful recipe 😉 Thank you so much for sharing.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:03 pm

      Glad you like it Ramona, and sorry (not sorry 🙂 for making you hungry!

  • Angela Greven | Mean Green Chef
    September 5, 2019 12:20 pm

    You simply cannot beat classic Italian flavors, such a beautifully simple dish that I know sings! Thank you so much for sharing another fabulous recipe 🙂

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:02 pm

      Thank you Angela! You are absolutely right!

  • Kankana Saxena
    September 5, 2019 6:23 am

    Thanks so much for this recipe! i bough some pearl couscous the other day and was wondering how to prepare it. You gave me a lovely idea.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:01 pm

      Glad to help Kankana!

  • Beth
    September 5, 2019 5:00 am

    I’ve always left meals of clams to restaurants because they seemed so much trouble to prepare, but you make it look pretty straightforward. I only wish we lived near a coast so that any clams would be fresh. Will have to see what is around Denver. Thanks for the lovely and helpful sequence of photos.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:01 pm

      Thank you Beth, and hope you get to try cooking some soon!

  • Anindya Sundar Basu
    September 5, 2019 3:17 am

    Wow this is delicious and cant wait to try this out. Thanks for the recipe

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:00 pm

      Thank you Anindya!

  • Cathleen @ A Taste of Madness
    September 5, 2019 3:03 am

    I love coming to your blog, because I learn about all of these different pastas that I have never heard about before!! This one looks like an absolute winner 🙂

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 8:59 pm

      Thank you Cathleen! We love sharing information and our love of pasta!

  • Lathiya
    September 4, 2019 9:56 pm

    I haven’t cooked with clams. This looks so delicious. Will try this recipe soon.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 8:58 pm

      Thank you Lathiya. Clams are delicious, this recipe is perfect for trying them out!

  • Stine Mari
    September 4, 2019 4:32 pm

    You definitely made me crave fregolas! Whenever I can get my hands on them, I will make this amazing Sardinian recipe.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 8:56 pm

      Thank you, hope you love it!

  • Nart | Cooking with Nart
    September 4, 2019 1:15 pm

    I’ve never had fregola but I love clams. Will definitely try this recipe, thanks for sharing!

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 8:56 pm

      Fregola is so good! Hope you love it!

  • Simone
    September 4, 2019 11:32 am

    I don’t know a single one of your recipes that hasn’t make me say “Looks like more”! I haven’ eaten clams in decades… gonna have to try this!

    • The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 8:54 pm

      Thank you Simone!

  • Ai | Ai made it for you
    September 4, 2019 7:22 am

    I’ve never heard of fregola but I love couscous (and pasta in general) so I’m sure this would taste amazing!

  • Patrice
    September 4, 2019 4:05 am

    I really like fregola but haven’t had it in a while. I’ll have to find some and try out your recipe!

  • Shari L Eckstrom
    September 4, 2019 2:15 am

    I had never heard of fregola before I saw your recipe. It sounds like something I would enjoy. I’ll be on the look out for it so I can give this dish a try. It looks amazing.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:15 am

      Hi Shari, if you are in the US, you might find it in some of the larger well-stocked stores, or good Italian Deli’s! It is definitely worth trying!

  • Erika
    September 3, 2019 11:02 pm

    I don’t eat clams nearly enough. I need to try this out.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:17 am

      Hi Erika, this is a great recipe for eating more clams!

  • Julia Osgood
    September 3, 2019 9:51 pm

    I love couscous so I’m sure I’ll like fregola. Everything else looks delicious too. I definitely have to try this recipe. Great pictures and instructions too. Thanks!

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:22 am

      Thanks Julia! I am sure you will, fregola is so good!

  • Elaine Benoit
    September 3, 2019 4:24 pm

    I’ve never heard of fregola! How fun! This looks so delicious Jacqui and I can’t wait to make this! Thanks for the link to supermarket Italy. I can’t wait to browse their store!

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:23 am

      Thank you Elaine! And glad to help!

  • Edyta
    September 3, 2019 4:21 pm

    This recipe is incredible. So easy and so flavorful. I appreciate all the information about fregola 🙂

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:24 am

      Thank you, Edyta! We love sharing information about the recipes!

  • Danielle
    September 3, 2019 4:19 pm

    So interesting to learn more about what fregola is, and where it comes from. I’ve had it a few times before but never really thought about the origins of it. Can’t wait to make it – now that have all this knowledge!

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:26 am

      It’s lovely to know a little history of our food, isn’t it? Enjoy!

  • shobee
    September 3, 2019 4:06 pm

    Haven’t heard about fregola before, nor have seen it, so thank you for introducing this to me. Ours stores don’t carry them as well. Those cute clams are my fav when I was in the Philippines, but ours was really huge. Seeing this small make me smile.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:28 am

      It makes us happy to make you smile Shobee! if you do see any fregola now, you will have a recipe to try it out with!

  • Traci
    September 3, 2019 3:15 pm

    What a savory, scrumptious dish! So easy and full of flavor…thanks for another winner!

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:29 am

      Thank you Traci! It really is delicious!

  • Kelly Anthony
    September 3, 2019 2:37 pm

    Since I won’t be making it to Sardinia anytime soon I’m excited to be able to make their famous dish right at home.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:30 am

      Thank you, Kelly! You can create a little bit of Sardinia right in your kitchen with this, no travel needed!

  • Suzanne
    September 3, 2019 2:13 pm

    I’m looking online for fregola now, because this recipe looks DELISH.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:33 am

      Hi Suzanne, thank you! Hope you find fregola – if you need any help tracking it down, please let us know!

  • Tatiana
    September 3, 2019 1:54 pm

    Excellent presentation; this looks delicious! I haven’t cooked with clams many times in the past, but I will give this a try!

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:33 am

      Hi Tatiana, thank you! Hopefully, you will love it as much as we do!

  • Gloria | Homemade & Yummy
    September 2, 2019 8:13 pm

    I have not experimented with clams at all in the kitchen. I love the sound of this rustic recipe. What a great dinner for the weekend, along with a nice bottle of red wine. Perfect for date night.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:34 am

      Absolutely, Gloria! It would be perfect for a date night!

  • KitchenVarieties
    September 2, 2019 7:08 am

    Oh man! This look so delicious. Saving and pinning this post. I can’t wait to try this. Thank so much for sharing.

    • The Pasta Project
      September 4, 2019 3:38 am

      Thank you! Hope you love it as much as we do!

  • Dahn
    August 31, 2019 6:38 pm

    Seriously great timing! My husband just saw a cooking show that used fregola and asked me to make something with it. Thanks for the recipe

  • Kavita Favelle
    August 31, 2019 5:36 pm

    I’ve never bought fregola to cook at home, no idea why as it’s a shape of pasta I really like. This recipe with clams looks perfect, I need to buy some fregola ASAP!

  • Alisa Infanti
    August 31, 2019 5:22 pm

    I have never heard of fregola before. I shop at a great little Italian butcher shop that carries pastas from Italy so am definitely going to try and find some.

  • Demeter
    August 31, 2019 5:08 pm

    This looks like the perfect meal for a date night in! So flavorful!!

  • Kate
    August 31, 2019 4:45 pm

    Such a great idea! Thanks for the yummy recipe!

  • Traci
    August 31, 2019 4:13 pm

    So few ingredients yet so much flavor! This one’s a keeper…thanks for sharing 🙂

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