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Fregola with Clams

Fregola with Clams

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You probably won’t have to salt the sauce itself since the clams are so briny; taste right before serving and serve over fregola.


  • 1½ cups fregola (about 10 oz.)
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 24 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Recipe Preparation

  • Cook fregola in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, 6–8 minutes; drain.

  • Meanwhile, heat ¼ cup oil in a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Carefully add wine; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

  • Add clams, cover, and cook, transferring clams to a bowl as they open (discard any that do not open), 6–8 minutes. Add fregola to cooking liquid in pot and cook, stirring, until fregola is tender and sauce is slightly thickened (there should still be plenty of liquid), about 2 minutes. Return clams to pot and cook until warmed through.

  • Divide fregola and clams among bowls, drizzle with oil, and top with parsley and lemon zest.

Nutritional Content

Calories (kcal) 430 Fat (g) 16 Saturated Fat (g) 2 Cholesterol (mg) 20 Carbohydrates (g) 55 Dietary Fiber (g) 3 Total Sugars (g) 4 Protein (g) 15 Sodium (mg) 166Reviews Section

Fregola con le vongole, or fregula in dialect, is a traditional Sardinian dish, homemade by farmers. It’s a particular type of pasta made with semolina, which as a spherical shape like cous cous, but larger. It’s cooked with clams, snails or in minestrone soups, and prepared at home in copious portions to be enjoyed at a later time. It has a very delicate taste and it’s for this reason that it can be coupled with stronger flavors, such as clams, seafood or pecorino cheese.

Production is entirely handmade and that’s why it results in sets of irregular grains, slightly different in size. Take 9 oz durum wheat semolina and roll it out, a little at a time, in a deep dish or plate. Add a little lukewarm water in which you have dissolved a pinch of salt and start "massaging" the semolina with just the fingertips until it gathers into small balls. Spread the fregola on a cloth and let it dry overnight. Then transfer it to a baking tray and put it in the oven at 350° F for 15 minutes. Once cooked, let it cool before using it.

Sardinian Fregola with Clams

I was re-arranging my pantry recently and found a package of Sardinian fregola that I had purchased at Altomonte’s Italian market ( a few years back. I had visited Sardinia back in 2008 and returned home with a few treasured recipes that have become family favorites. My mouth instantly watered (ho l’acquolina in bocca! – love that phrase in Italian) thinking about the dish that I typically make with this Sardinian speciality and it was game on for dinner.

Sardinia 2008

My trip to Sardinia was a special one for me. I had come to the island as part of my quest to visit as many of the Italian islands as I could. (I still have many more to go!) The island itself was breathtaking… from the hues of blue that were the sea to the interior mountains covered with sheep to my favorite town that was Bosa on the western edge, where the water was the bluest of blues, where the air smelled of salt and brine. This little town with a river running through it, rose up and up from the sea, its homes brightly colored, the streets wavy and uneven from the cobblestones. You could feel the souls of centuries past as you walked through the streets of the old village. I still to this day remember that feeling as I walked up to the fortress at the top.

The village of Bosa

On one bright sunny day, I stumbled across a little restaurant set right on the sand at the sea. In front of me was a dish made from the smallest, most tender little clams, which I have come to learn are called arselle. The broth was the deepest red, spiked with saffron and the toasty fregola soaked up all the wonderful flavors as it swam in this heavenly combination.

Sardinia’s invaders and settlers have heavily influenced Sardinian distinctive cuisine. Given Sardinia’s strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea, the constant wave of invaders has left the cuisine of the island heavily influenced by nearby Italy but also by the far away shores of southern Europe and Africa. Sardinian fregola is a great example of this, as it closely resembles couscous, although the little balls are larger than typical couscous. The pasta is also toasted, giving any dish from which it is made a wonderfully nutty flavor.

Fregola has also been gaining in popularity in this country and is much easier to find than in years past. This dish is super simple but the taste is divine. The clams infuse the saffron-laced broth with a briny flavor that balances beautifully with the nutty taste of the fregola. If you can find yourself a bag of this wonderful pasta, do not hesitate for a second. (You, of course, can find it easily on line these days.) You will not be disappointed!

Yield: 4 servings


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 pounds small Manila clams, scrubbed and rinsed well

1 small lemon, finely zested

2 cups chicken stock, warmed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, sliced thinly

3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds Add the clams, ½ cup of the wine and lemon zest and cover. Cook over medium heat until the clam shells open, about 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open, and remove the clams from the cooking liquid. Reserve both the clams and the liquid separately. Shuck half of the clams, coarsely chop and reserve.

2. Strain the pan juices and place in a clean skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the chicken stock and the remaining ½ cup wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the fregola, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently until the fregola is just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and chopped clams. Top with reserved whole clams, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.


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  • 1kg/2lb 4oz small clams, such as palourde
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 banana shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 750ml/1¼ pint light chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp dry red vermouth
  • 200g/7oz fregola
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley, plus more for sprinkling

Soak the clams in a large bowl of cold water, and sort through them, discarding any shells that remain open or are cracked or smashed.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan that comes with a lid, then add the chopped shallot, stirring for a minute, grate in the garlic, and add the chilli flakes, stirring again over the heat so that it sizzles, though not long enough to let the garlic brown.

Stir in the tomato purée, then add the stock and the vermouth and let it come to the boil.

Add the fregola – it should be covered completely by the liquid – and let it simmer, still uncovered, for 10–12 minutes (or as instructed on the fregola packet).

Check that the fregola is nearly ready and then add the drained clams and cover the pan with the lid. Leave to cook for three minutes at a fast simmer, then uncover the pan to check that the clams have opened. Any clams that, once cooked, stay closed should be discarded.

Sprinkle in the chopped parsley and stir to let everything combine before ladling into four warmed bowls to serve, sprinkling with a little more chopped parsley as you go.

Clam recipes

Some of the tastiest clams in the world can be found in Italy. There are lots of different types of these little shellfish, but in Italian cooking the most popular are Manila clams, with beautiful striped shells. This collection of clam recipes comes from some of Italy's finest chefs.

The most famous clam recipe from Italy is spaghetti alle vongole, a simple combination of pasta, clams, white wine and garlic. But there are countless ways of preparing them and including their meat in dishes. Roberto Petza uses clams in his Seafood soup with fregula, basil and citrus Grazia Soncini keeps things simple with Maltagliati clams and wild asparagus and Antonino Cannavacciuolo uses the shellfish to flavour risotto in his Risotto with clams, lemon and thyme.

As with all shellfish, it’s important to know how to prepare them correctly to get the best flavour. Check out our How to cook clams guide for a general overview and then watch our short video on tips for how to open clams safely.

Heat olive oil in large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes, crushed red pepper and black pepper. Cook until garlic and tomatoes soften, about 3 minutes.

Add wine, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, until reduced.

Working in batches, place clams in single layer on top of tomato mixture and cover tightly. Cook over medium-high heat until clams open and release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. As they open, scoop out clams into large bowl. Repeat with remaining batches, if necessary.

Once all clams are cooked, add chicken stock to tomato mixture in pot, and bring to a boil. Add fregola sarda. Return to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fregola sarda is tender to the bite (about 15-20 minutes).

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (use restraint with salt, as clam liquid is naturally salty).

Briefly add clams back into pot to reheat, then spoon fregola, clams and broth into shallow bowls to serve. Garnish with chopped parsley and torn basil.

Fregola with Clams

A few things about fregola… It’s a pasta from the Italian island of Sardinia. It’s made by rubbing semolina flour and water together to form small round pellets. It’s then toasted in the oven which gives it its distinct nutty flavor. Fregola is great in soups, stews and even salads. It comes in different sizes and I went middle-of-the-road. Fregola with clams is a traditional combination that I just had to try for myself.

The flavors in this fregola with clams very much echo those of linguine with clams. There’s garlic, white wine and an abundant amount of oil and butter. I also like to add red pepper flakes, lemon zest and a variety of herbs. This time around I used basil, parsley and tarragon, but mint and chives would work well too. Herbs are something you really don’t need to measure. Do the amount you like with what you like. Okay, enough talking. I just want to get my spoon into this buttery, briny, herbaceous bowl of goodness.



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