Fregola is a type of baby pasta, some say similar to cous cous, but please do not substitute regular cous cous into this recipe, it's not the same. Fregola is a toasted Sardinian cous cous which is more like dense pasta peas than semolina grains that normal cous cous is. If comparing, fregola is more like Israeli cous cous.
I ordered fregola online as I couldn't find it in stores, but since then it is becoming more readily available, and I have found stores that stock it, some supermarkets and Italian delis also have it. If you do find it, buy a few packets, it's worth it. But if you really can't find fregola rather than substituting a cous cous, use another pasta shape like ditalini or risoni. But in all honesty try and find fregola.
This dish is like a light, but clam rich, tomato spiced soup. I made this when my parents came over one day and we all loved it. I have since tried other similar recipes with fregola using mussels, vongole prawns and we are loving them.
For the vongole, I soak them in a bowl of cold tap water for about 5 minutes, to remove any sand they have in them. I change the water a few times and keep doing it, until the water is no longer murky.
If you don't want to buy vermouth, you can use white wine.
This is so easy to make, it takes about 15 minutes to make, you have no excuse not to try it.
1kg small clams, such as pipis or vongole
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
750ml light chicken stock (made up with less powder or concentrate to water than usual)
60ml dry red vermouth
Finely grated rind from 1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus more for sprinkling
Soak the clams in a large bowl of cold water, and sort through them, discarding any shells that remain open or are cracked or smashed.
Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan that comes with a lid, then add the chopped shallot, stirring for a minute, add the garlic and the chilli flakes, stirring again over the heat so that it sizzles, though not long enough to let the garlic brown.
Stir in the tomato paste, then add the stock and the vermouth and let it come to the boil.
Add the fregola – it should be covered completely by the liquid – and let it simmer, still uncovered, for about 10 minutes (or as instructed on the fregola packet).
Check that the fregola is nearly ready, about the 7-8 minute mark, and then add the drained clams and cover the pan with the lid. Leave to cook for three minutes at a fast simmer, then uncover the pan to check that the clams have opened. Any clams that, once cooked, stay closed should be discarded.
Sprinkle in the finely grated lemon rind and the chopped parsley and stir to let everything combine before ladling into four warmed bowls to serve, sprinkling with a little more chopped parsley as you go.
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