Fregola is such a funny word. Honestly, it reminds me of Fraggle Rock whenever I say it. But for as funny as it sounds, that's how good it tastes. I sometimes think I could live off pasta -- there are so many different kinds. Fregola is a small pearl-shaped pasta from Sardinia. I buy it at Salumeria Italiana in the North End and also brought a bag of it home from Amalfi when we were there on our honeymoon. I love the stuff. I've often made a risotto-like mixture with it, adding lots of vegetables, and I've used it in other dishes just as I would pasta or Israeli couscous. It has such a nice toothsome texture and small shape that make it very versatile.
Recently, I came across a new (to me) way to use it: in soup!
Last weekend, with snow falling outside, I gathered my ingredients, and in no time I had prepared and cooked this hearty yet delicate soup.
It starts with sautéed shallots and a little tomato paste, to which I added some homemade vegetable stock I'd stored in the freezer for just such an occasion. The fregola simmers right in the soup with a couple of sprigs of rosemary for flavor, and once the pasta is tender, the soup just needs a handful of cheese (the original recipe calls for Pecorino Sardo, but I could only find Pecorino Romano) to finish it off.
This fregola soup is simple and quick but so very filling and flavorful. The background notes of tomato are bolstered with green, herby rosemary notes and a slight sharpness from the Pecorino Romano. A drizzle of olive oil (use the good stuff!) and some salt and pepper elevate the flavor. There's not much better than tucking into a bowl of hot soup when there's snow coming down outside, and this one made for a perfect lunch.
Fregola Soup With Rosemary
(adapted from The Glorious Pasta of Italy)
This soup has a tomatoey base, flavored with sprigs of rosemary and filled with toothsome pearls of fregola. Sharp Pecorino Romano and a drizzle of good olive oil are the finishing touches.
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped fine
5 cups homemade vegetable stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 to 1 1/2 cups fregola
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra for serving
Good olive oil, for serving
Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir 3 tablespoons of the vegetable stock into the tomato paste and stir the tomato paste mixture into the shallots.
Add the remaining vegetable stock to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Stir in the fregola and cook it until tender (follow package directions; mine took 13 minutes), stirring it occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Off the heat, fish out the rosemary stems (most of the needles will have fallen off and dispersed in the soup). Stir in the Pecorino Romano and season the soup with salt to taste.
Ladle the soup into individual bowls.
Top each serving with extra Pecorino Romano, drizzle with good olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Note: I cut back on the amount of soup and made a few small changes based on what I had on hand. (Check out The Glorious Pasta of Italy for the original recipe.) Also, it's best to eat this soup the day it's made. Like all soups with pasta, the broth will thicken and the fregola will become more tender if it's stored.
And just a quick note on The Glorious Pasta of Italy -- I love this cookbook! And if you love pasta, you will love it too. There are soups filled with pasta, complicated dishes with fresh pasta, easy everyday pasta dishes, and even desserts made with pasta dough. It has beautiful pictures and a gorgeous design. I love the font that's used on the photo pages. I've made several recipes from the book, all with amazing results.
Have you tried fregola?
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