Fregola Sarda with Zucchini and Parmesan Recipe

Fregola Sarda with Zucchini and Parmesan

The funny thing about a food blog, especially one that has been around for a long time, is that it doesn’t really reflect the frequency with which each featured dish is cooked: if you look at an archived post from years ago, how do you know whether it was just a one-time experiment, or if it has made weekly appearances at the author’s table since then?

After a recipe has been given the spotlight once, most bloggers are reluctant to write about it again, lest their readers think — assuming they keep track, which is fairly unlikely in these overstimulated times — they are rehashing old ideas. But then, aren’t you most interested in those ideas special enough to sustain the cook’s appetite time and time again? I certainly am.

I find that a microblogging tool such as twitter helps with that conundrum, allowing me to note, for those who care, that I am making very ginger cookies again, or gratin dauphinois or poppy seed cake.

But then, every once in a while, I make a personal classic that gets me excited as much as it did the first time, and I think, “This is just too good not to remind the world about it.”

This explains today’s post, which is another take on this one, first published five years and eight days ago. In the intervening time, I have gone through innumerable packages of fregola sarda, that toasted Sardinian pasta that is considerably tastier than its humble looks might suggest, is impossible to find in Paris (it would be too easy), and therefore requires trips abroad and favors from friends for me to replenish my stash.

I have tried eating fregola sarda in other ways than this, and though I must say it works splendidly with fresh peas, nothing quite compares to the chemistry between the teeny, lightly chewy pasta, soft wedges of zucchini, and coarsely grated parmesan.

I make it a bit differently now, blanching the zucchini quickly in the pasta water instead of sautéing it separately, and I frequently omit the pine nuts, to skip the toasting step. But if there are cherry tomatoes in the red star-shaped bowl on the counter I’ll add them in, and if I have little bits of meat scraped from a roast chicken carcass, as I did the day I took the above picture, they round out the dish nicely, too.

All in all, it is a one-pot dish that takes no longer to prepare than the time needed to boil the pasta — though fregola sarda is a little longer to cook than most, I’ll grant you that — and it is still, after all these years, my go-to meal when I’m having dinner on my own. It is just as good hot, barely warm, or cold, which means I can prepare a double serving, eat half on the spot, and have the leftovers for lunch the next day.

On the subject of pasta, I have just struck a good deal on a pasta-making apparatus, and I am anxious to it try soon, probably using the ratio laid out by Michael Ruhlman in his book (three parts flour to two parts egg). Any handmade pasta advice to share, or favorite recipes of your own?

Fregola Sarda with Zucchini and Parmesan

- 170 grams (6 ounces) fregola sarda, or other small pasta, such as gnocchetti sardi (a.k.a. malloreddus) or Israeli couscous
- 2 medium zucchini, about 280 grams (10 ounces)
- a chunk of good parmesan, or other aged cheese, about 60 grams (2 ounces)
- 2 handfuls cherry tomatoes (optional)
- a handful of pine nuts, toasted (optional)
- olive oil
- sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

Serves 2.

Bring salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat (in my kitchen, it’s faster to heat the water in the electric kettle than on the stove). Add the pasta, bring back to a simmer, and cook over medium-high heat for however many minutes the package recommends — the mileage of your fregola sarda may vary, but mine takes 14 minutes to be al dente. (Note: Israeli couscous will be ready much faster, so you should prep the zucchini and cheese beforehand; see Dawn’s suggestion in the comments below.)

While the water is heating and the pasta is boiling, cut the zucchini in thinnish half-moons and grate the parmesan coarsely (using the largest holes of the grater if there’s a choice). Halve the cherry tomatoes.

Two minutes before the pasta is supposed to be cooked according to the package, add in the zucchini, stir, bring the water back to a simmer, then cook for 2 more minutes. (The addition of the zucchini will make the water temperature drop, so the overall cooking time is slightly more than it would be if you were cooking the pasta alone.)

Drain and divide between two shallow bowls. Add the cherry tomatoes if using, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with pepper, parmesan, and pine nuts if using. Serve hot or at room temperature, possibly the next day (in which case I add the parmesan after the pasta has cooled).

Cooking/baking time: 14 min

  • Rachel

    This was the first C&Z recipe I ever made, and three years later it’s still a firm favourite. The only variation I’ve made is sauteeing a chopped onion before adding the zucchini (sometimes a bit of garlic as well). Now to try to find fregola in… if any Los Angeles readers know where to find it, please tell!

    • Rody

      I found Fregola Sarda at Nancy Silverton’s La Brea Bakery, next to Campanile.

  • Michael

    This looks great–can’t wait to try it! My current favorite fregola sarda recipe is a bit more involved.

  • http://howsweet.wordpress.com/ Jessica @ How Sweet It Is

    This looks like a delicious recipe to try! I tend to cook different things for a few wks then the same again…it’s all a cycle.

  • Megan

    For my pasta, I use 100 g of flour for each (extra-large) egg I add.

  • http://trattoriascorpacciata.blogspot.com/ seth

    Jamie Oliver got me to get a pasta machine and make fresh pasta. If you can knead bread, which I’m pretty sure you can, you can make fresh pasta. The best is the simplest, noodles with garlic/butter/crushed red pepper/parmesan. Lasagne with a bechamel instead of ricotta is amazing, too. And ravioli is remarkably easy. Enjoy.

  • http://www.chiccyclist.com Charlotte

    This is known in my household as “Clotilde’s Comfort Food” and has been requested by that name on more than one occasion.

    When I announce that we’re having Clotilde’s Comfort Food for dinner the news is always received with a happy smile. Thanks for all those smiles!

  • Renée

    Is fergola related to farro? If so I would be happy to send you some next time I go to SF, which is in November. I have a question about a comfort food recipe. In Paris I tasted cakes called fondants. I had one with apples fondant aux pommes and one with plums, I think they were mirabelles. Can you supply me with a recipe? The ones I have found on french recipe sites like “le journal des femmes” vary quite a bit as to the amount of flour added. The ones I ate were made with plenty of flour. Your help would prove invaluable to me.
    Thanks

  • http://scratch.typepad.com Rachel

    Clotilde- Never fear in re-posting the classics! I appreciate something that has stood the test of time, plus we improve and refine our recipes over time, so imparting those tricks is a huge benefit. (I wonder if everyone will be re-posting farro and pickle recipes in 4-5 years?)Also, I would be interested in reading about dishes that have been dropped from the rotation, and why.
    I have never cooked with fregola sarda and have a brand-new package just waiting to be used. Thanks for the recipe!

    Also, I was thriled to receive a KitchenAid pasta attachment as a wedding gift last fall, and have used it several times. I found that making the dough was actually easier by hand (putting the eggs in a well in the center of the flour) than in the mixer (I used Mario Batali’s method) and I recommend starting with sheet pasta (e.g. lasagne) or a hand cut pasta (e.g. Quadrucci, paparedelle), rather than with one of the smaller noodle shapes. Maybe it’s me, but it took a while to get the hang of it.

  • Renée

    I found the fregola at Lucca delicatessen on Chestnut st. in Sf. If you supply me with your mailing address I will send you some in November.
    Renée

  • Sara

    Rachel: I find fregola sarda at Bristol Farms.

  • http://www.demetermade.com Jessica @ Demeter Made

    This sounds fantastic! I’m always on the look out for quick meal ideas. Also, thank you for posting the link to the pasta roller, I’ve been looking for the Kitchen Aid attachment. My recent attempt at making homemade ravioli by rolling by hand convinced me of a good pasta roller’s neccessity.

  • Dawn in CA

    Clotilde – have you ever tried pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous)? It is available at middle-eastern markets. Maybe you could find it in Paris, as a substitute for those times when your pantry is empty of Fregola Sarda. It has a lovely, chewy texture, and aside from the obvious visual appeal, the shiny little orbs cook up in no time flat.

    Looking forward to giving your recipe a try, it sounds easy and delicious.

  • http://www.fromsingletomarried.com Tabitha @ From Single to Married

    That looks so fantastic – especially the freshly sliced cheese on top. Yum!

  • http://ciaochowlinda.blogspot.com Ciaochowlinda

    Your fregola dish looks great. The first time I ate fregola was in a little uninhabited island off the coast of Sardinia with the owners of a small fishing boat. The wife cooked it with fish (heads only) that had been caught while we were on board while the husband grilled the fish bodies. a great experience and delicious meal. Re:pasta, I just made some fresh pappardelle yesterday and two days ago and my advice is to add semolina flour to regular flour (almost half and half) in order to give the cooked pasta some “body”. Otherwise, it all sticks together no matter how little you cook it.

  • http://driedfigsandwoodenspools.blogspot.com Gillian

    I just made pasta yesterday with my kids. SO fun and so tasty. Your flour/egg ratio is about what I use.

    I’m eager to try your recipe, not sure if I can get the pasta, perhaps with Israeli cous cous? What do you think?

  • http://ellenp1214.wordpress.com Ellen

    i am so making this tomorrow. sounds perfect!

  • Trisha

    I am going to make this just as soon as i find fregola sarda. Looks yummy!!

  • http://www.eatitgood.blogspot.com Hannah

    Hi Clotilde,

    Welcome to the world of fresh pasta making, it’s a wonderful place to be!

    My favourtie fresh pasta recipe is the pumpkin and amaretto ravioli I learnt to make while living in Milan. Even now, 3 years on and back in Australia, it’s my go to recipe when I want to make something homely but a little special.

    You can find the recipe here.

  • Manu

    Hi Clotilde,

    Going to Italy soon, need anything ? ;)Seriously, let me know!
    For the fresh pasta, i heard it from the Italians themselves, 1 egg for 100g flour , or you could do from farina di grano duro with water, but i don’t know the exact proportions.
    Have fun with with the machine, be sure to not be alone if you didn’t get the small motor, it’s a lot easier, well, you’ll quickly see why;)

  • http://arugulove.wordpress.com arugulove

    I’ve been wanting to try fregola for ages now. This looks really light and fresh so I’ll definitely file this away for when I finally take the plunge.

  • http://www.theteachercooks.com The Teacher Cooks

    Have never made pasta before. Just a Southern Georgia cook. The recipe sounds delicious. Pasta is the quickest meal to prepare. Thanks for your post.

  • http://fancypantsy.wordpress.com/ bronwyn

    Hi there! This is my first comment even though I’ve been reading for some time now. Just 2 weeks ago I came across the original version and it quickly became a favorite. I’ve made it 5 or 6 times already! Sometimes I sub Isreli couscous. Sometimes I add wilted spinach. And I have taken to adding raw cacao nibs (inspired by your zucchini and cacao nib absorption pasta). I really love the zucchini and cacao nib combo. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • http://onepot.wordpress.com Onepot

    WHAT. Where has this pasta been hiding my whole life?

  • http://www.msadventuresinitaly.com/blog/ Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    I agree with the 1 egg for every 100g of flour and like Ciaochowlinda, I also add semola to my flour mix (more flour than semola) – I have the recipe on my site.

    You’ll love homemade pasta! It’s great.

  • http://www.makanaibio.com Flo Makanai

    Yummy! Exactly what I should plan for today’s dinner, thanks!
    It’s nice to follow you on Twitter too :-)

  • http://www.tobiascooks.com tobias cooks!

    For me this dish can do without the chicken, but besides that, great recipe.
    Here in Greece “Kritharakia” could be used as pasta. Also a small type of pata, not roasted though.

  • http://www.makanaibio.com Flo Makanai

    And concerning homemade pasta, I would recommend that you to mix flours : wheat and buckwheat; whole wheat and 5 grains flour; wheat and semolina etc.

  • http://www.mixingbowlkids.ca Mixing Bowl Mama

    Ah…I love the idea of re-posting some old favourites. We all forget what we’ve written about and read about and I’d love to see more of your favourites that you make over and over, even if you’ve posted them before.

  • Jessica

    Congrats on the pasta maker! People always say it sits around collecting dust, but I’ve had mine almost a year and I use it all the time. I think it’s a great thing to have.

    I second the advice that you start with whole sheets (manicotti or lasagna) or big, hand-cut noodles, then move on to linguine, then ravioli and such, which I think is the hardest. The recipe I use calls for olive oil, but it makes sense that the fat/flour recipe would be the same with just flour and eggs. I do like adding salt to the dough! I feel like sort of a heathen, but it’s the best way to get nicely distributed saltiness.

    I’m linking to a gardenweb cooking discussion on pasta containing more of my rambling advice.

    Also, I agree about how delicious Israeli couscous is– toasted so there are golden pieces, and smothered in butter. Soooooo good.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Rachel, Charlotte, Bronwyn – So thrilled this has become a part of your repertoire, too!

    Megan, Seth, Rachel, Ciaochowlinda, Gillian, Hannah, Manu, Sara, Flo, Jessica – Thanks so much for the handmade pasta tips!

    Renée – No, fregola sarda is not related to farro: farro is its own whole grain, whereas fregola sarda is a pasta made from flour. But thanks for the offer! As for the cakes, “fondant” is a catch-all term rather than a precise recipe (a bit like “coffeecake”, for instance) so recipes for them vary a lot, and I’m sorry that I can’t offer one for the specific cakes that you tasted.

    Dawn – Yes, I’ve tried Israeli couscous before (I’ve never seen it in Paris, but I should look harder) and it would be a good substitute here. I’ve updated the recipe to reflect that, thanks!

  • rebecca

    I was looking for inspiration for dinner yesterday and found this. I ran down to the local ‘fancy’ market and they did indeed have fregola sarda, which was SO EXCITING. It’s beautiful pre-cooked. I made it with a few more ingredients, and it was the best thing I’ve had in quite awhile. Thanks (as usual) for the inspiration!

    Mine: fregola sarda with fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan, and a squeeze of lemon topped with home grown orange peppers and zucchini (sauteed), topped with pancetta and garlic. MMM!

  • ceu

    My daughter and I make pasta with semolina. We LOVE our machine that we picked up at a garage sale. The hardest part for us is having room to let it dry before cutting. We’ve made lasagna with the “planks” and used our pizza crimper-cutter to sandwich filling between planks for ravioli. And we like cutting thick, wide strips for chicken noodle soup and cheesy noodles. Enjoy. I’m excited to try your ideas for pasta.

  • Barbara

    As much in love with your original recipe as I am- I trust you implicitly and will give this one a try while I still have some fregola left in the pantry. It is going fast!

  • http://www.wearenotmartha.com Sues

    SO true! My boyfriend was just complaining that even when I make something reallyy good, I never make it twice because I can’t put it on the blog again. But when I do something the second time, it’s always much better than the first, so I SHOULD post again. Your fregola sarda looks delicious!

  • sarah

    I see Israeli couscous has been mentioned already… Trader Joes has it all the time for the US cooks out there. Also has it in a bag called “Harvest grains” that includes mostly Israeli couscous peppered with red quinoa, orzo, and very wee baby garbanzos. Would be PERFECT for this recipe.

  • Dawn in CA

    @Sarah – thanks for the tip about Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains. I don’t recall seeing that mix, but I will look for it now!

  • Dawn in CA

    Hi again Clotilde – a quick note about substituting Israeli couscous for the fregola: please follow the directions for cooking on the package! If one were to cook Israeli couscous for 14 minutes, there would have nothing but mush. Also, like regular couscous, the Israeli variety is meant to soak up all the liquid in which it cooks, so you won’t have any extra cooking water in which to cook the veggies. With this in mind, it would probably be better to sautee or steam the veggies first, then add the cooking water/stock and bring to a boil, THEN add the Israeli couscous last and let it sit for the time recommended on the package. Lastly, top with the tomatoes/cheese/etc. as shown in Clotilde’s recipe. Hmmm… think I’ll have to give that a try this weekend! ;)

    Hope this didn’t cause too much confusion. While I do think the pearl couscous would be a great sub in terms of flavor and texture, the cooking methods are completely different for the two. xo, Dawn

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Dawn – You’re absolutely right, thanks for pointing that out. I’ve added a note in the recipe directing would-be substituters to your comment and suggested M.O.

  • http://www.gggiraffe.blogspot.com Johanna

    This is a continual problem with blogging as I make some things over and over but I try and mention these in my blog and I am thinking about a favourites page – I confess to making some things I had forgotten about when I see someone else make them so if we make each others recipes these keep them alive too

  • Mrs Redboots

    I make pasta with 1/2 cup wholemeal flour, 1 egg, and as much water as necessary (plus seasoning, of course) & press it through a potato ricer into boiling water. Nice, but a bit coarse & hefty.

    The other day I made it using gram flour and olive oil instead of wholemeal flour & egg, and it was absolutely heavenly!

    Either way, you just press through ricer into boiling water, bring back to boil and cook for no more than 1 minute (like ravioles).

  • http://thewholegang.org Diane-The WHOLE Gang

    Yum, this looks really good. I bet it would be good with gluten free pasta too. I’ll have to give this one a try. Thank you.

  • Melissa

    If my French isn’t too rusty, it would appear that this restaurant sells fregola sarda in its store.

    Also seems to be a specialty shop in Brussels that carries it.

    Not sure if this would work out for shipping in France, but a search for fregola sarda on the US amazon site shows several importers who sell the pasta.

    Thanks for the introduction to this exciting-looking pasta, can’t wait to try it.

  • Laura

    Re: where to get fregola sarda in Los Angeles — You can get it at Surfas in Culver City. Call first to make sure it’s in stock, although I’ve gotten it there regularly.

  • Tracy Walker

    I have never gotten around to getting a pasta machine, but I make my own egg noodles. Big difference there; but my grandmother made her own pasta and it didn’t seem like such a difference from the store-bought to me. Perhaps it was her recipe?

  • http://www.ztastylife.com/ amelia

    my grandmother is from Sardegna. Fregola is crunchy and satisfying!!!

  • http://www.italiantapas.com ItalianTapas

    I’m glad you brought this post back. I saw it a while ago and forgot the name of the pasta. I look forward to trying Sarda.
    Ciao!

  • JP

    Here are some handmade pasta tips I’ve picked up over the years:

    1 – I use the pasta dough recipe Thomas Keller has in his French laundry cookbook. (It’s uses one whole egg and a bunch of egg yolks, and a little oil and milk in the mix.) His explanations are quite thorough.
    2 – the eggs – The more redish the yolk the better the pasta will look: it will be more yellow. Pale yellow yolks will result in off-white colored pasta–not as appetizing.
    3 – The flour – In the US I use King Arthur’s all-purpose organic. It seems to have enough chewiness to give the pasta a touch of firmness. I don’t know what would be best to use in France, so I’d just start with something all-purpose (type 55?) and tweak from there. In Italy most recipes call for Tipo “00″ (which is the less glutenous), but a few call for Tipo “0″ (the more glutenous used for making bread). Some recipes I’ve read even have you add some semolina, which makes the pasta very firm, and can be nice but is a bit of a pain so I don’t bother, although I have tried it.
    Moisture – After you’re done kneading the dough most recipes say it should be soft, elastic and shiny–moist enough to not be tough–but it should not stick to your hands. All of that is right, but if you’re making filled pasta, it’s probably good to have it slightly more moist than if you’re making, say, spaghetti. A very slight moistness helps with being able to close your packets of pasta. But with the spaghetti, you really don’t want the noodles to stick at all to each other.

    I hope you find this information helpful.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    JP – Most helpful, thank you! I’ll check out Thomas Keller’s recipe. I’ve had the book forever and never once used it, so it would be nice to finally justify the purchase. :)

  • Elizabeth Hunter

    Rachel, you have probably found a source for fregola sarda in LA by now — but if you have not, I just bought some today at the Whole Foods at Fairfax & 3rd. And Surfa’s on Washington near National in Culver City always has an interesting and vast selection of pasta.

  • Wally

    Haven’t had fregola sarda specifically under this name, but looks like same or similar to Hungarian tarhonya which are lentil-shaped and -textured albeit not normally toasted but cooked. No reason you couldn’t toast them though.

  • tmj

    You can find fregola sarda along with martelli pasta and other wonderful Italian ingredients at Gusto on teh rue caron just east of the St. paul metro station in the 4th arr.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the tip!

  • Cindy

    Fregola Is Sold At Nugget Markets.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the tip!

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