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clam soup Sardinian Clam Soup.
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September 2006

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Soups & Stocks

Recipe: Sa Fregula con Vongole

Sardinian Clam Soup With Couscous

 

 

Sardinia, part of Italy (it is Sardegna in Italian), is a huge island in the Mediterranean Sea to the West of Italy and due south of the island of Corsica. It is one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean, second only in size to Sicily, and roughly the size of Wales.

Seafood is naturally common island fare. Combining simple ingredients in a delicious fashion, restaurateur Efisio Farris* shares a recipe for Sa Fregula con Vongole, a traditional Sardinian soup of fregula, a (toasted semolina* pasta related to couscous), and fresh clams in a saffron broth. It’s a soup you can prepare all year long to delight guests with its elegant aromas and authentic Sardinian-cuisine flavors.

*Semolina is ground durum wheat, used for making pasta because the hardness of the species holds up in boiling. Fregula and couscous are both pastas.

Fregula is toasted, giving it nutty and roasted flavors. It’s a wonderful grain product to get to know. Often referred to as Sardinian couscous, fregula is much less well-known than couscous but far tastier, as a result of both roasting and texture. Both products are made from semolina mixed with water, formed into pellets and dried; but couscous pellets are light and fine. Fregula generally has a coarser, rougher texture. Israeli couscous is roasted and similar in flavor but lacks the rough texture.†

†The North African varieties of couscous are small-grained—the pearls are about 1/16 of an inch. There is a larger-grained product called berkukis. Israeli couscous is more than three times the size of regular couscous—similar to berkukis—but is roasted to produce the distinctive nutty flavor.

The recipe here is a classic Sardinian preparation—clams and tomatoes, with saffron. You can use fregula as you would any couscous; or bulgur wheat. As a pasta, it cooks quickly—10 minutes in boiling salted water—and as with any pasta can be tossed with butter or olive oil. You can use it instead of rice, as a pasta side, or tossed with vegetables into a salad.

Fregula can be purchased from Gourmet Sardinia; at Whole Foods Markets and other specialty stores.

Ingredients

  • 24 Littleneck clams or cockles

  • 1 cup plus 4 cups of fish stock (or substitute vegetable stock)

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 gloves of garlic, thinly sliced

  • 1 small bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

  • Salt to taste

  • Pinch of saffron (Sardinian saffron is recommended)

  • 1/2 pound fregula (Israeli couscous can be substituted)

  • 3 medium Roma tomatoes, diced, seeded & peeled

  • Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)

Directions

  • Wash clams thoroughly with fresh water.  Place in a large pot with one cup of the stock.  Heat until clams open.  Separate the clams from the juices.  Set clams aside and keep warm.

  • Pass the clam juice through a sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove any sediment and impurities.  Reserve the juice. 

  • Bring the remaining fish stock to a boil.

  • Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over a medium heat in a large pot. Add the sliced garlic, parsley and crushed red pepper and sauté until the garlic is tender, approximately one minute. 

  • Add the clam juice and the boiling fish stock.  Add salt to taste (carefully, since the clam juice is naturally salty).  Bring to a boil.

  • Add the fregula, a pinch of saffron and the chopped tomatoes and cook 10 minutes over a medium heat.  Stir frequently to prevent sticking.  (Add more stock if the broth seems dry).

  • Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest.  Divide clams among bowls, placing them around the perimeter.  Fill the bowls with the soup.  Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

* Recipe courtesy of Arcodoro & Pomodoro. For more recipes visit, GourmetSardinia.com. Visit Arcodoro in Houston and Pomodoro in Dallas for authentic Sardinian cuisine.

                                                                           

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