Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Homemade fregula

Have you been to Sardinia? It's the second-largest island in the Mediterranean, you know. Sicily is the largest. But that is all I have to say on that painful matter, as a (good?) friend has decided to travel to Sicily this very April, on an eight-day wine tour no less, without the slightest thought of inviting along... Like I said, it's painful.

This person's email arrived just as I was getting ready to show you all the very nice batch of arancini (a Sicilian specialty) I had prepared. "And on the 8th day," read the Subject line. "P.S. I'll have a couple arancini for you," is how the email ended.

All a man can betray is his conscience.
— Joseph Conrad

Needless to say, the arancini has been put on hold until further notice.

And so we move to Sardinia. And to a food item that is very much associated with the island that my friend will not be traveling to weeks from now.

Fregula (or fregola) is sort of an Italian couscous. It's a pasta, made with semolina flour and water, though often saffron is added. It can be used like a pasta, of course, or a risotto. It is often added to soups, and cold fregula salads are popular as well.

It is a pretty rustic pasta, this fregula, irregularly shaped when made by hand. It is a toasted pasta, and so the color can vary quite a lot.

The really great thing about fregula is that you don't need to be a skilled pasta maker in order to prepare it. And it takes hardly any time at all to make a very nice fregula from scratch.

Place 2 cups of fine semolina flour into a wooden tray or shallow bowl, then gradually pour around two-thirds cups of water (I've added a little saffron to the water here) into that as you begin working the mixture by hand.

Simply rub the dough with your fingers so that small nuggets start to form.

After the nuggets have formed like so, keep breaking them up by rubbing them even more, so that the nuggets become smaller still.

Then place the entire batch on a baking sheet and put that in the oven (preheated to 200 F). As the fregula is toasting, stir it around from time to time so that it toasts evenly.

After about an hour you've got yourself a nicely toasted pasta that can be used right away or cooled and stored in an airtight container for several weeks.

After reading the email about Sicily I needed something comforting to ease the pain a bit. And so I boiled up a little fregula (12 to 15 minutes it takes to cook) and mixed that with caramelized onions and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

And I forgot all about the arancini — and the trip to Sicily — that might have been.


Claudia said...

Not only have I never had fregula - I have never heard of it (bad Italian). And given that my daughter's car died directing in front of my car and I can go nowhere this is a project that will help me successfully avoid writing for the day.

Mister Meatball said...

I am a supporter of the writing avoidance, yes. Carry on.

S. said...

i love how most of your posts end with the adding of parmesan cheese.

Jeannie said...

Never heard of it too, looks quite simple to make though...can we throw in some meatballs in the fregula:D

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I have eaten fregula (or fregula) in Sardinia after spending a day with a lovely couple who own a pescaturismo boat. We caught tons of fish and octopus and they moored on an uninhabited island off the coast. My husband and I swam in the clear turquoise water while they frilled the fish, batted the octopus on rocks to tenderize it, and made a thick soup using fish heads and fregula. your post brings it all back and makes me want to try making my own fregula.

Mister Meatball said...

S: It is true about the cheese and me. I am as predictable as an earthworm or an addict on this point.

J: Meatballs go with everything, you should know that.

CCL: ...and your comment makes me wanna get on a plane.

Thomas Henry Strenk said...

Ah, poor Meatball. I'll be thinking of you when I'm scarfing down panelle(chickpea fritters) while sipping a fine Sicilian nero d'avola in Erice.

Mister Meatball said...

THS: You, sir, are a rat bastard!

Peggy said...

I tried making this and it looked just like yours. I thought I got it wrong, but maybe not! Niw I see your post.