Sardinian Fregola with Chickpeas

Fregola with chickpeas. Recipe from Sardinia.

This warming Sardinian fregola with chickpeas is a nutritious and delicious slightly spicy vegetarian pasta soup recipe from Sardinia. It’s a perfect cold weather meal. Add spinach for colour and more fiber or pancetta/guanciale for a non-vegetarian version.

Sardinian fregola with chickpeas

Fregula con ceci.

When the cold days of November and December hit, I love making pasta soups. Using pasta in soups is very popular here in Italy. Pasta adds carbohydrates and bulk that turn a soup into a hearty meal. Legumes are also a common ingredient in Italian soups. In this recipe, the chickpeas add protein, calcium, iron and fiber as well as other nutrients, so now the soup is a well-balanced meal too!

ingredients for fregola and chickpeas on white plate

I have always found it intriguing that many traditional Italian recipes are so nutritious. Back in the day when dishes like this Sardinian fregola with chickpeas became popular, people didn’t really understand the nutritional value of the different foods they ate! They just put dishes together based on what was seasonal and available and what they grew!

Chickpeas in Sardinia.

People have cultivated chickpeas in Sardinia since the times of Ancient Rome. As you can imagine, there are many traditional chickpea recipes on the island. Many of these are types of soup like ‘minestra di ceci e finocchio’, made with chickpeas and wild fennel or ‘zuppa di ceci e verza’ (chickpea and savoy cabbage soup).  

chopped onions, garlic, celery and peperoncino in Dutch oven with olive oil

Another famous Sardinian chickpea recipe is stewed chickpeas. The Sardinians also use chickpeas in a very old sweet Christmas recipe called ‘cixirau’ in which they cook chickpeas with honey, sugar, Christmas spices like cinnamon and cloves and orange peel!

cherry tomatoes, pancetta and other ingredients cooking in Dutch oven

The city of Sassari in Sardinia is famous for a type of chickpea flour pancake called ‘fainé alla sassarese’. This popular street food was imported from Liguria centuries ago by Genovese sailors who landed in the ports of northern Sardinia. Sardinians eat it either alone or flavored with onions and/or Sardinian sausage.

tomato passata and cherry tomatoes cooking with other ingredients in Dutch oven

What is fregola?

Fregola (or fregula) is a small pasta typical of Sardinia. It is made of  balls of durum wheat semolina and water, worked by hand and then roasted in the oven. This pasta is uniquely Sardinian and not found in other Italian regions. It looks very similar to couscous but with a slightly nutty flavour. In fact, fregola is often called Italian couscous or Sardinian couscous. If you want to learn more about this unique pasta, check out my post on Sardinian fregola.

Sardinian fregola

This Sardinian fregola and chickpeas recipe.

I definitely prefer using dried chickpeas to canned. But, of course, this recipe can be made with both. Obviously, soaking dried chickpeas overnight and then boiling them takes time. However, I think the result is more flavourful and healthier.

fregola added to the tomato sauce in a Dutch oven

This Sardinian fregola and chickpeas is a pretty simple recipe. Apart from the fregola and chickpeas, all you need is onions, garlic, celery, tomatoes, tomato passata, parsley and peperoncino (red chili pepper). You can leave the latter out if you don’t like spicy food. My hubby wanted me to add some pancetta, which I did. Just leave that out for a vegetarian version.

cooked chickpeas added to the fregola and sauce in a Dutch oven

Because the fregola pasta cooks in the soup it actually absorbs a lot of the liquid, so the end result is more like a risotto than a soup. In fact, the last stage of cooking is very similar to how Italians make risotto. However, if you want your Sardinian fregola with chickpeas to have more liquid, just add some extra broth or water.

Sardinian fregola with chickpeas ready to serve in Dutch oven

Fregola and chickpeas are a great combo.

I think fregola and chickpeas are such a great combination. Not only are they delicious together but the similarity in the size and shape of both gives this soup a fabulous texture and look. However, if you don’t have fregola you can use Israeli couscous instead, it looks pretty similar. Plus as I mentioned before you can add other ingredients to suit your taste.

Sardinian fregola and chickpeas

Spinach goes really well in this dish, as do mushrooms or other legumes like red or black beans. Instead of peperoncino, use fennel or rosemary. However you make this Sardinian fregola with chickpeas, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it is a great cold weather dish!

Sardinian fregola with chickpeas

If you do try this Sardinian fregola with chickpeas 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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Buon Appetito!

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Sardinian fregola with chickpeas

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Fregola with chickpeas recipe from Sardinia

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Sardinian fregola with chickpeas
5 from 21 votes
Sardinian fregola with chickpeas
Sardinian fregola with chickpeas
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins

This warming Sardinian fregola with chickpeas is a nutritious and delicious slightly spicy pasta soup recipe from Sardinia. It is a perfect cold weather meal. Add spinach for more fiber or pancetta/guanciale for a non-vegetarian version

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Sardinia
Keyword: authentic Italian pasta recipe, chickpeas, fregola, fregula, Italian food, Italian recipe, pasta soup, pasta with chickpeas
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 300 g fregola (10-11oz) or Israeli couscous
  • 350 g chickpeas (120z) dried or canned
  • 200 g pancetta (optional) (7oz) cubed (for non vegetarian)
  • 1 onion peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 celery stalks finely chopped
  • 500 g tomato passata (17 floz)
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes cut into halves
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
  • 500 ml vegetable stock (16 floz) cubes dissolved in water or homemade stock.
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 handful fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 fresh peperoncino (red chili pepper) chopped (optional)
If using dried chickpeas
  1. Put the dried chickpeas to soak in water overnight. In the morning, drain the chickpeas and cover with fresh water. Add salt and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer until ready about 1-2 hours depending on the size and age of the chickpeas. You can also cook the chickpeas in the pressure cooker for about 20 minutes. Once cooked drain the chickpeas.

Make the soup
  1. Chop the peeled onion, peeled garlic and celery finely and sauté together in a pan with extra virgin olive oil and the chopped peperoncino for about 5-7 minutes.

  2. Add the diced pancetta (if using) and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

  3. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes till they start to soften. Add the tomato passata, season with salt and cook for 10 minutes.

  4. Add the fregola and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to combine.

  5. Add the drained cooked chickpeas to the sauce. (or rinsed canned chickpeas)

  6. Cook everything together slowly for 15-20 minutes stirring all the time and adding the stock little by little. (The same way as making risotto).

  7. Serve when ready with a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley and some crusty bread or grated pecorino.

Recipe Notes

If you don’t have Sardinian fregola, you can use Israeli couscous in this recipe. You can add also spinach or cooked mushrooms to this recipe.Instead of peperoncino, you can use rosemary or wild fennel.

More Sardinian fregola recipes here on The Pasta Project

  1. Fregola with clams
  2. Fregola with lamb

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  • Avatar
    January 9, 2020 10:24 pm

    I haven’t heard Fregola before and yes, I love chickpeas and the dishes with it. This looks delicious.

  • Avatar
    Jenni LeBaron
    December 18, 2019 1:45 am

    I’ve never worked with fregola before, but I love the look of this dish! I also really appreciate that there is a bunch of different textures in this dish (especially the chickpeas) to keep it hearty and interesting.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:30 am

      Thank you, Jenni. It is really hearty. I love the texture of the chickpeas and the fregola.

  • Avatar
    December 16, 2019 9:28 am

    Oh I love fregula! Someone made me a veggie chilli with fregula in and it blew my mind so I can’t wait to give this soup a try! Sounds great!

    Katie xoxo

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:33 am

      That sounds delicious Katie! Fregola is so good.

  • Avatar
    December 16, 2019 1:01 am

    What a cozy soup! And I love how easy it is to prepare. I’ll definitely make this all winter long!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:34 am

      It’s such a good winter soup, Amanda!

  • Avatar
    Cathleen @ A Taste of Madness
    December 15, 2019 6:33 pm

    I love putting chickpeas in a lot of my dishes. I am obsessed with the look of this!! Do you deliver 😉

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:36 am

      Thank you, Cathleen! I am not sure how soup would travel through the post! 🙂

  • Avatar
    December 15, 2019 1:58 am

    This looks absolutely delicious! I love traditional Italian dishes, they are full of flavor and smell amazing.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:38 am

      That is so true Alexis!

  • Avatar
    Amy Dong
    December 15, 2019 12:02 am

    I am seriously so into chickpeas this season! They’re so rich in protein, healthy, and almost everyone can enjoy. Super versatile in recipes!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:40 am

      Yes, they are nutritious and delicious!

  • Avatar
    Constance Smith
    December 14, 2019 4:46 pm

    Great recipe! My husband absolutely loves anything couscous. I’l have to share this one with him 🙂

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:42 am

      Thank you, Constance. I hope you both love it!

  • Avatar
    Jere Cassidy
    December 14, 2019 4:09 am

    The fregola is so interesting with the colors. This looks like one hearty soup with plenty of delicious flavors. Perfect for this cold rainy day we are having.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:43 am

      Thank you, Jere, it really is the perfect soup for a cold and rainy day!

  • Avatar
    December 11, 2019 1:58 pm

    Wow, handmade pasta is the best but I never realised this little pasta was worked by hand, I must look out for it next time I go in Sardinia. I would love to taste this, the real thing.
    This dish looks amazing and so tasty. Perfect for this time of the year but truthfully this would do for me any time of the year.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:45 am

      Very true Ramona, it would be great any time of the year. Hopefully you have it on your next Sardinia visit!

  • Avatar
    Lesli Schwartz
    December 10, 2019 11:24 pm

    I adore chickpeas so I’m always happy to find new recipes! Love all of the ingredients in this fregola!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:46 am

      Thank you, Lesli. I am a big chickpea fan too!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    December 10, 2019 9:11 pm

    What, do they roll the fregola by hand? That sounds like so much work! But I would love to taste this, it looks incredible with so many delicious flavors.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 30, 2019 12:51 am

      Yes, amazing isn’t it!

  • Avatar
    Veena Azmanov
    December 8, 2019 7:13 pm

    Such an awesome dish and comforting meal option. The combinations are unique and the dish is so flavorful and delicious.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 9, 2019 4:04 am

      Thank you, Veena. You can’t go wrong with healthy and delicious!

  • Avatar
    Kim @ Three Olives Branch
    December 8, 2019 6:50 pm

    I just love Italian food, especially unique recipes like this. And I am a fan of Italian spicy foods just like this, it is so delicious!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 9, 2019 4:05 am

      Thank you, Kim. I love a little spice too, especially in the cooler weather!

  • Avatar
    December 8, 2019 6:36 pm

    So happy to find your recipe– I am always searching for filling vegetarian dishes where we won’t miss the meat. This is just what I needed, thanks!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 9, 2019 4:08 am

      Absolutely, Holly! This dish is really hearty, so you definitely won’t miss the meat!

  • Avatar
    Pam Greer
    December 8, 2019 5:45 pm

    This soup is pure comfort food! So rich and filling, we don’t even miss any meat!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 9, 2019 4:08 am

      Thank you, Pam! It’s perfect comfort food!

  • Avatar
    December 8, 2019 4:50 pm

    Looks so vibrant and such a perfect cold weather soup! I can’t wait to try it.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 9, 2019 4:09 am

      Thank you, Neha. The colours are gorgeous and if you add spinach the green adds even more beautiful contrast!

  • Avatar
    December 8, 2019 12:09 am

    Love how comforting this looks, perfect for winter!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 9, 2019 4:10 am

      Thank you, Amy! It’s so warming and filling – perfect for a cold day!

  • Avatar
    December 8, 2019 12:04 am

    How cool that you used pearl couscous and that now I know it is called fregola! It sounds like a fantastic shooting soup. I am pinning for later enjoyment. Making it after my holiday crazy schedule comes to an end.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 9, 2019 4:11 am

      Thank you, Adriana! I hope you like it (when you get time to try it!)

  • Avatar
    Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    December 7, 2019 11:50 pm

    This sounds tasty and the perfect winter warmer!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 9, 2019 4:12 am

      Thank you, Bintu! The spiciness and the heartiness make it ideal for cold days!

  • Avatar
    December 7, 2019 10:14 pm

    This is the first time I’ve heard of fregola, but I do have some couscous at home, so I’ll be making this with couscous instead. This dish sounds perfect for the cold weather. 🙂

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 9, 2019 4:12 am

      Let us know if you try it and love it!

  • Avatar
    Sandhya Hariharan
    December 7, 2019 9:42 pm

    Vegetarian Soup with beans is totally my type. We love them for dinner.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 9, 2019 4:13 am

      Hope you try it and love it Sandhya!

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