Fregola is a Sardinian version of large-grain couscous with one key difference: the grains are toasted in the oven, giving them a nuttier flavor. The most typical preparation is in clam broth, though the earthiness of the fregola combines perfectly fresh wild mushrooms, a sofrito chunky with cured pancetta, and freshly grated pecorino cheese.
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 stalk celery with leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 carrot, finely chopped
- 2 ounces lean cured pancetta, finely chopped
- 1 fourteen-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes, finely chopped, all juices reserved
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 10 cups water
- 1 pound fregola
- 2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 ounce freshly grated pecorino, preferably Pecorino Sardo
Prepare a sofrito. In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion, and cook until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and pancetta, and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and all their juices, season with salt and pepper, and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring from time to time, until soft and mushy.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Sprinkle in the fregola and cook until the tender, 15 to 18 minutes. The dish should be just moist enough to need a spoon to eat; add water if needed.
Meanwhile, trim and clean the mushrooms and cut into bite-sized pieces. In a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook until browned.
Gently stir the mushroom and garlic mixture and the parsley into the fregola and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to blend the flavors. Serve in wide bowls topped liberally with the cheese.
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