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