One of my (self-imposed) goals this year was to cook with fregola (also spelled fregula). A recipe in Food & Wine (June 2012) stood out to me, and a friend's bachelorette party proved the perfect opportunity to give it a try. It didn't hurt that we were staying in a gorgeous house in Vermont with a Wolf stove and All-Clad cookware.
I bought the fregola ahead of time at Salumeria Italiana in the North End. Fregola is a small, chewy, toasted pearl-shaped pasta (similar in appearance to Israeli couscous) from Sardinia. It has a wonderful nutty flavor. The recipe I found paired it with lots of balsamic, tomatoes, and onions, and that sounded perfect to me.
I originally decided to make the recipe while in Vermont because I knew I'd have a table of girls willing to eat my pasta creation, and I thought there'd be a grill. Turned out that we couldn't use the grill, so I had to improvise.
Taking the recipe inside was not at all difficult (especially with plenty of helping hands), and I was relieved that it turned out amazing anyways. This recipe has a bit of a leisurely pace to it, so I recommend pouring a glass of wine and just enjoying the cooking process.
Fregola With Charred Onions And Roasted Cocktail Tomatoes (adapted from Food & Wine, June 2012)
2 (10-ounce) packages Backyard Farms cocktail tomatoes
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 rosemary sprigs
4 thyme sprigs
Salt and pepper
2 large red onions, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (use the good stuff)
1 lb fregola
1 cup torn basil leaves
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Toss tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil on baking sheet. Scatter the rosemary and thyme sprigs on top and season with salt and pepper.
Bake for about 40 minutes. Tomatoes should just burst or look ready to burst.
Pull the crispy leaves off the herb stems and discard the stems. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Preheat a grill pan on medium-high heat. Brush onions with extra olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook onions on grill pan until lightly charred; flip and char the other side. Transfer onions to baking dish and pour 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil over them.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until tender. Let cool in liquid, then chop coarsely and return onions to baking dish with liquid. Stir tomatoes and herbs into onions.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fregola and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente, about 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to large bowl.
Stir onions, tomatoes, herbs, and liquid into fregola along with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with basil, and serve.
This dish was so flavorful and had nice contrasts in textures. Definitely make sure to use good balsamic vinegar since it provides a lot of the flavor background. If you haven't tried fregola before, this is the perfect dish to start with. I already went back to the North End and bought more so I can make it again. We ate this dish with chicken and shrimp, but I also think it would be fabulous with a balsamic-glazed steak.
Have you ever tried fregola?