CLASSIC pasta fregula with asparagus and lemon








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There is nothing like a new pasta discovery for a dedicated pasta lover. I saw the package below in one of my Italian delis; knew nothing about it; and knew it was discovery time. Bought it.

The pasta is fregula sarda, a tiny round pasta that resembles large grain couscous. It is made with hard durum wheat, and, as the name implies, is native to Sardinia. The pasta is primarily used in soups, but we found a recipe on the "TasteFood" blog, for fregula with asparagus and lemon, and made it. Delicious and different! Here is the recipe (thanks to TasteFood), slightly adapted.

Note that the recipe calls for a half-pound of fregula, But we think it adequately serves 4-6.

for the sauce:

  • one-half pound thin asparagus
  • four cups chicken stock
  • two tablespoons olive oil
  • one large shallot, finely chopped
  • one garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • good pinch of red pepper flakes
  • juice and finely grated lemon zest of one medium lemon
  • one quarter cup grated pecorino Romano (or Sardinio) cheese.
  • one teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • salt

for the pasta:

  • one half pound of fregula pasta

Note that we cook the pasta in a stock, not in the usual quarts of boiling water.

Prepare the asparagus by breaking off the tough ends

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and blanch until they are bright green and still a touch crunchy. Maybe a minute! Drain and run under cold water to halt the cooking. Slice the asparagus on a slant, about one-quarter inch in length. Leave one inch of the tips intact.

In another pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the fregula. Cook until al dente -- this maybe take a while, perhaps ten minutes or so, as this is a hard wheat pasta. Drain.

While the fregula are cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan large enough to take the pasta, over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute until the shallots are softened -- maybe two minutes.

Add the fregula, combine, stir and all that good stuff. If the mixture is too sticky, or not quite liquid enough, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the asparagus, stir; add the lemon juice and lemon zest, the freshly ground pepper, at least a teaspoon of salt and the cheese. Stir again,

Cover, turn the heat to high for one minute. Then serve immediately in warmed bowls.

Presto -- a new pasta discovery!



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