In my view Sardinia is the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean, and it also offers some wonderful food – full of sun and summer.
Fregola is a semolina pasta, typical of Sardinia which seems, in looks and texture, a bit like the love child of orzo pasta and pearl barley. There are different sizes of fregola – for this recipe I would recommend the large type. Fregola is a bit more tolerant to being kept warm than most pasta, but you shouldn’t leave it, covered in foil in a warming oven, too much longer than half an hour.
I wouldn’t recommend making this for more than two (you might just manage it for four) because you will run out of space in your frying pan, but this is a pretty straightforward recipe which doesn’t take long – about twenty minutes, all in.
For more about Sardinian food – in particular the fregola and the saffron, follow this link.
Recipe for Sardinian Seafood Pasta Gilded with Sardinian Saffron
- 300g/11 oz frozen cooked prawns, or, even better, a mix of frozen cooked seafood – Waitrose does a mix of prawns, mussels and squid
- 80g/3 oz diced pancetta (or four rashers of bacon)
- 175g/1 cup/6 oz fregola
- olive oil for frying, and, if you have it, so good finishing olive oil (in this case I was using a fruity Muraglia, but I also love The Gay Farmer’s peppery offering (see Marvels at Maltby Street Market)
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt – you can do this as you make the recipe
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- about eight strands of saffron
- a pinch of something hot and spicy – Aleppo pepper, Byadgi chilli, or Urfa pepper (care with this…it’s a bit of a pussy cat which turns into a lion)
- grinds of pepper
- 10 baby plum tomatoes
- 80ml/⅓ cup pink Martini, or dry vermouth, or vintage dry cider
- ½ lemon
- some fresh thyme
- Defrost the seafood – ideally naturally, or if you are in a hurry, put it in a large sieve and run it under a warm tap.
- Boil a full kettle, pour it into a medium saucepan, bring to the boil, add a couple of teaspoons of salt.
- Add the fregola – cook exactly as it says on the packet, different sizes and types will take different amounts of time to cook. As a rough guide it will be about ten minutes. Be careful not to overcook, especially if you are planning on keeping it warm. Drain it and set aside.
- Meanwhile, pour a glug of olive oil into a big frying pan, and add the pancetta.
- Peel and chop the onion, and add that to the frying pan.
- Peel and crush the garlic with the salt, Add to the frying pan.
- Add the dried oregano and the saffron, and whatever heat you’ve decided to add – a mild chilli.
- Halve the baby tomatoes and add them.
- Add the defrosted cooked seafood and heat through.
- Grind over the pepper.
- Add the pink Martini, or whatever booze you are using.
- Stir in the fregola.
- Put it all on a serving plate. Sprinkle over the fresh thyme, and drizzle over your finishing oil.
- Grate over the zest of the lemon, cut the lemon into wedges and serve with the seafood fregola for people to squeeze over at the last minute.