Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fregola Salad

Do you know that happy jolt that goes through your body when you unexpectedly source an ingredient you have been looking for for ages? A spice mix maybe, or a rare dessert wine or - as in my case - a special pasta shape. I had read about fregola sarda here and there and even eaten it myself when on hoilday in Sardinia but I had never, so far, found a shop that stored it. But now I have. It's an unspectacular place, a storage hall rather than a real shop but who cares with all the culinary finds that make any food bloggers heart beat faster? I spotted chestnut flour - chestnut and chocolate cake, anyone? I very happily walked out with a packet of fregola and a similarly shaped pasta called tempestina which is even smaller, like very thin spaghetti chopped into tiny pieces. Traditionally, those small pasta shapes are used in broths but I think they lend themselves very well to pasta salads, too. They retain a lot of starch clinging to them when cooked which means they have a tendency to stick together but the starch helps to make a very tasty and easy dressing when the pasta is tossed with just a little olive oil and the juice from sautéd vegetables and maybe a spoonfull of lemon juice. In other words: the starch is your friend.

Fregola salad with sautéd vegetables (serves 2)

  • 120g fregola sarda
  • 1 small courgette, finely diced
  • 1 small aubergine, finely diced
  • 1 handfull of cherry tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
  • fresh herbs, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan with a lid and sauté the courgette and aubergine for a few minutes, then cover and cook until soft. It is important to cover the pan in order to prevent the jucie of the vegetables from evaporating. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes. While the vegetables are cooking, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and refresh only very quickly under cold water. Put in a bowl and add all the vegetables, herbs and the lemon juice. Stir thoroughly and correct the seasoning, maybe add another spoonfull of olive oil. Serve lukewarm or cold but never straight out of the fridge.

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