If you’ve never tried fregola before you’re in for a treat! Fregola is a small circular pasta similar to, but slightly larger than Israeli Couscous. It has a nutty flavor and pleasantly dense and chewy texture. I like to cook it in this risotto-ish style with crispy, salty pancetta, sweet peas, chicken stock and grated parmesan cheese! It’s heavenly!
Never heard of fregola? Fregola is a tiny circular pasta from the Italian island of Sardinia. It’s sometimes referred to as Sardinian couscous. Fregola is small and chewy like a grain. It’s made with semolina and water and makes a great base for soups, stews, and salads. Fregola is similar to couscous and can be used in any recipe as a substitute for couscous, farro, or orzo.
This recipe combines nutty, toasted fregola with the flavors and ingredients of a classic Italian side dish; peas and pancetta. Together with parmesan cheese and savory chicken broth this dish will remind you of a creamy spring risotto!
Rendering the pancetta (cured pork belly meat, sort of like thick bacon) until it’s golden-brown and crispy, creates the perfect amount of salty pork fat to sauté the shallot and infuse the dish with pork flavor. Green peas balance out the salty flavors of the pancetta and a bit of butter a parmesan cheese provides the perfect amount of creaminess.
This recipe serves four people as a side dish, or two people as a main course. Pair it with a bright a zesty Herb Salad.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Step 1. Cook the Fregola
Cook the fregola in a pot of salted boiling water just until it’s al dente. It will continue cooking in the sauce later on.
Step 2. Render the Pancetta
In a large sauté pan cook the pancetta until it’s golden-brown and crispy then use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer the pancetta to a plate, leaving the rendered pork fat behind in the pan. Add the minced shallot to the pan and sauté until soft and translucent.
Step 3. Sauté and Simmer
Next, add the fregola to the pan with the shallot followed by the chicken stock. Simmer until the fregola is tender and the stock has reduced enough to coat the back of a spoon. Just before serving fold in the frozen peas, butter and parmesan cheese.
Step 4. Serve
Divide the fregola between bowls. Top with crumbled bits of crispy pancetta, chives, grated parmesan and a few turns of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve warm!
FAQs and Expert Tips:
Fregola is a tiny circular pasta from the Italian island of Sardinia. It’s sometimes referred to as Sardinian couscous. Fregola is small and chewy like a grain. It’s made with semolina and water and makes a great base for soups, stews, and salads. Fregola is similar to couscous and can be used in any recipe as a substitute for couscous, farro, or orzo.
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Fregola with Pancetta, Peas and Parmesan
- 1 ½ c fregola
- 4 tbsp butter divided
- 8 oz thinly sliced pancetta or bacon
- 1 large shallot minced
- 1 c chicken stock or water
- 1 c frozen peas
- ½ c freshly grated parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- 3 tbsp minced chives optional
- salt and pepper
- Bring a medium-sized pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fregola until al dente, about 7-8 minutes. It will continue cooking with the chicken stock later on. Drain and set aside.
- While the fregola is cooking heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter along with the pancetta. Cook the pancetta until crisp, 4-5 minutes; then transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add the minced shallot into the pan with the reserved fat, stir continuously until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Next, add the fregola to the pan. Stir the fregola and shallot together until evenly combined then add in the chicken stock. Season with a few turns of freshly cracked pepper. Hold off on adding salt as the pancetta and parmesan cheese are quite salty already. Bring the stock to a simmer then turn down the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the fregola is tender and the chicken stock is almost completely evaporated about 3-5 minutes.
- Just before serving fold in the frozen peas, grated parmesan and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Divide the fregola between bowls and crumble a bit of crispy pancetta over each portion followed by chives, grated parmesan cheese and a few turns of black pepper. Serve immediately!
- Fregola: If you can’t find fregola you can use Israeli couscous or orzo pasta for this recipe.
- Pancetta: Bacon can be used in place of pancetta.
- Frozen Peas: Fresh peas can be used but you will want to give them a quick blanch first.
- Chicken Stock: Vegetable stock can be substituted for chicken stock. In a pinch, water will also work.
- Parmesan Cheese: Pecorino cheese would be just as nice as would Manchego.
- Leftovers can be stored covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat over low heat in a saucepan or in the microwave. Add a few tablespoons of water to loosen up the sauce as needed.
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