Sardinian Couscous with Clams and Tomatoes
Fregola is a small, round Sardinian pasta resembling Israeli couscous. The dried spheres have been toasted, which gives them a firm texture and a savory, nutty flavor when they are cooked. Serve this dish in shallow bowls with crusty bread to soak up the broth.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 2 Tbs. minced garlic
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 lb. ripe fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped, or 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/4 cups bottled clam juice
- 1/4 tsp. plus 2 Tbs. sea salt, plus more, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 lb. small clams, such as Manila, scrubbed
- 3/4 lb. fregola (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until the shallots are soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, clam juice and the 1/4 tsp. salt and simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Season with black pepper, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.
Add the clams to the sauté pan, discarding any that do not close to the touch. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until the clams open, 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the 2 Tbs. salt. Add the fregola, stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain the fregola in a colander and transfer to a large serving bowl.
Pour the clams and their sauce over the fregola, discarding any clams that failed to open. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Mediterranean Cooking, by Charity Ferreira, Dana Jacobi & Carolyn Miller (Oxmoor House, 2008).