What is fregola?
Fregola (also known as “fregula” or “fregola sarda”) is a type of pasta from Sardinia, made with semolina flour, that’s rolled into tiny balls and then toasted in the oven. The tiny pasta balls might be dainty-looking, but don’t be fooled… this pasta is as bold and hearty as can be! Indeed, the toasted flavor of the pasta is quite prominent and demands a sauce that will stand up to it – the reason fregola is traditionally served with tomato-based sauces.
Bold Sardinian pasta… tamed by a creamy homemade pesto!
Here I pair the robust pasta with a creamy kale pesto, which does a marvelous job of mellowing its bold, toasted flavor. And the poached egg, served on top, coats the pasta with another layer of creaminess. All in all, this bowl of pasta is utterly satisfying and simply delicious!
Food & wine pairing: Grenache Blanc with fregola and kale pesto
A full-bodied white wine with mellow acidity and herbaceous notes is best with this pasta. And Grenache Blanc (also known as Garnacha Blanca), either on its own or in blends, is wonderful here. Look for a Grenache Blanc from southern Rhône, blended with Roussanne, Marsanne or Clairette – as in the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc. Otherwise, look for a Grenache Blanc from Roussillon in Southern France, from Catalonia in Northeastern Spain or from the Santa Ynez Valley in California.
Fregola with kale pesto, poached eggs and Pecorino Romano shavings
active time: 30 min
- 1 tablespoon sea salt for the pasta water
- 12 oz (340 g) fregola
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
- 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (to poach the eggs)
- 4 extra large eggs
- 1 cup kale pesto
- sea salt to taste
- extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano shavings (use a vegetable hand-peeler)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Step 1: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the salt and fregola. Cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain well.
- Step 2: While the pasta is cooking, fill a medium saucepan with 3″ to 4″ of water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the vinegar and reduce heat to medium-high so you have a good boil, but not a roaring boil. Break four eggs into four separate small bowls and tip each egg onto itself in the boiling water, working as quickly as you can. Boil the eggs for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes (depending on how firm you like your egg whites to be). As soon as the eggs are done, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. (You can trim the uneven edges of each egg to make a clean shape if you’d like, but I don’t do this because I don’t like to waste any part of my beautiful eggs!)
- Step 3: To serve – Place the fregola in a large bowl. Add the kale pesto and drizzle with the reserved pasta water. Toss until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. Spoon into bowls. Nestle a poached egg in the center of each bowl, make a slit in each egg with a paring knife and sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle with a little olive oil, garnish with the Pecorino Romano shavings and finish with black pepper. Serve immediately.
- As delicious as fregola is, you can make this recipe with regular pasta too. I recommend using a pasta shape with twists and grooves, like trofie, gemelli or cavatelli. The pesto will find its way into every groove and make the pasta taste even more luxurious.