~ Fregola Sarda, Asparagus, Lemon, Pecorino
If you have never tried Fregola Sarda, then you should. Fregola (also known as fregula) is a semolina pasta hailing from Sardinia, Italy. It’s quite similar to pearl couscous which is made of wheat. It consists of tiny rolled balls which have been sun-dried then toasted, lending a satisfying and unique nutty flavor and mottled texture. Fregola is delicious on its own, served simply with olive oil, sea salt and a dusting of cheese, in soups, or combined with vegetables and fresh herbs as a side dish or light meal.
Fregola with Asparagus and Lemon
1/2 pound thin asparagus
8 cups chicken stock
1 pound fregola
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
2-3 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and blanch until bright green and crisp-tender, no more than 1 minute. Drain and refresh under cold water. Slice the asparagus stalks 1/4 inch thick, leaving 1 1/2 inches of the tips in tact. Reserve a few of the tips for garnish.
Bring the stock to a boil in another large pot. Add fregola. Cook until al dente, about 15 minutes or per manufacturer’s instructions; drain.
While the fregola are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute until shallot begins to soften but isn’t limp, 1-2 minutes. Add fregola and toss to combine. If the fregola are too sticky, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Remove from heat. Stir in asparagus, lemon zest, 1/4 cup cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Serve warm, garnished with reserved asparagus tips and extra cheese.