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Seasonal Recipes

Recipe: Cook the Sardinian pasta fregola in a tomato-based broth with clams

Fregola with clams, tomatoes, and olives
Fregola with clams, tomatoes, and olives(Karoline Boehm-Goodnick for the Boston Globe)

Serves 4

Fregola (pronounced FRAY-goh-lah), are small toasted rounds of durum wheat pasta that have a chewy, rustic appeal and slightly nutty flavor. This traditional Sardinian pasta is often served with clams in a soupy, tomato-based sauce. If you can’t find fregola, substitute Israeli or pearl couscous or even orzo, the rice-shaped pasta. (If using pearl couscous, before adding to the pot, toast it in a skillet in a little olive oil, stirring often, until it turns golden. Then proceed with the recipe.) For this dish, use small clams, such as countneck or littleneck, which are more tender than larger ones.

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32countneck or littleneck clams
3tablespoons olive oil
3cloves garlic, finely chopped
teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
¾cup dry white wine
1can (about 15 ounces) diced tomatoes
Salt and black pepper, to taste
3cups water, or more if needed
cups fregola
4tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1teaspoon grated lemon rind
¾cup pitted black or green olives in brine, coarsely chopped

1. Soak the clams in a bowl of cold water and scrub any grit from the shells. Rinse and drain.

2. In a large flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook, stirring, for 45 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the wine and simmer for 3 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.

3. Add the clams, turn the heat to medium-high and cover the pot. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, shaking the pan gently once or twice, or until some of the clams are open. With tongs, transfer the open clams to a bowl. Cover and continue cooking the remaining clams, checking every 30 seconds or so, and transferring the open clams to the bowl. Discard any clams that do not open after 10 minutes.

4. Add 3 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Stir in the fregola. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom, for 15 minutes or until it is just tender but still chewy-firm. The mixture should be a little soupy; if there’s very little liquid remaining, add another ½ cup of water. Add a generous sprinkle of black pepper and stir in 3 tablespoons of the parsley with the lemon rind and olives. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and red pepper, if you like.

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5. Return the clams and any juices in the bowl to the pot. Cook, stirring gently, for 2 minutes, or until the clams are hot. In 4 shallow bowls, ladle fregola, clams, and the cooking juices. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Lisa Zwirn


Lisa Zwirn can be reached at lisa@lisazwirn.com.