Fregola con le arselle

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This fregola con le arselle recipe hails from Sardinia, where clams are a firm favourite. Arselle are a type of clam local to Sardinia, but using regular vongole will work just as well in this stunning dish. The fregola is handmade from semolina and is one of Sardinia’s most prized ingredients.

First published in 2018
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Fregola is a peculiar pasta shape at the heart of Sardinia’s culinary heritage. Handmade using only semolina flour and water, then toasted in a wood-fire oven – from which it gets its unique, multi-coloured appearance – it resembles pearl couscous in shape and texture, though it’s used in fairly different ways.

Fregola’s most traditional pairing is with clams, particularly with a local variety of clams called arselle. However, any variety of local clams will work just as well for the sake of this recipe.

The dish is often declined in a variety of ways: with more or less (or no) tomatoes or tomato sauce; with sun-dried tomatoes; served on a bed of pane carasau (the local flatbread;) and so on. I opted for a bit of tomato sauce for colour and zing.




Fregola con le arselle

  • 1kg clams
  • 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 150ml of dry white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, small, finely chopped
  • 250g of fregola
  • 200g of passata
  • fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


Place the clams in a cold salted bath for an hour to flush out. Next, drain and rinse them thoroughly under cold running water
Place 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet set over a medium heat. When hot, add the clams; pour in the wine, cover and cook for about 3-4 minutes, shaking the skillet to help the clams open up. Shell ¾ of the clams and leave the rest in the shell for garnishing. Strain the cooking liquid through a muslin or a fine sieve and reserve it for later
Place the remaining oil with the garlic in a large saucepan. Add the parsley and let it infuse the oil for a couple of minutes, then stir in the fregola. Toast it for one minute, stirring often, then pour over the tomato sauce and the clam juice. Carry on cooking the fregola, adding water as needed, until soft but al dente. Season to taste
At the very end, stir in the shelled clams. Cook the clams with the fregola for a minute or two before serving. Serve the fregola right away topped with the clams in their shells
First published in 2018

Valeria Necchio is an Italian food writer and photographer with roots in the Venetian countryside.

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