La Fregola è gelosa del risotto – Fregola allo zafferano con zucchine e funghi

I adore Fregola’s texture…those little round balls that are similar to couscous but are really not…It’s a pasta specialty from Sardinia and when cooked they remain somehow chewy and al dente at the same time.

This fregola has been prepared like risotto with a saffron broth then enhanced at the end with grilled vegetables and parmesan. I think you can find Fregola at any Italian grocery store or specialty store. We have a Sardinian restaurant in San Francisco called La Ciccia, they serve traditional Sardinian cuisine, which is really good (you can find fregola dishes, octopus in umido, pane carasau, etc… lots of traditional Sardinian products) and not really the typical Italian-American you see very often in many Italian restaurants, which I think is a mixture of different cuisines and influences. It might have been traditional 150 years ago, then with time, it became a modified cuisine mixed with local influences and ingredients.

Fregola is an authentic Sardinian pasta product and I have never seen it served in any other Italian restaurant other than at La Ciccia. As a matter of fact, I have never seen it in other parts of Italy either because it is a very regional product mainly consumed in Sardinia. So if you can find it, try it out.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Italian-American is not good food, I’m just saying it’s just not real traditional Italian cuisine. For example Cioppino, that tomato seafood stew you can find in many restaurants in San Francisco, even though it sounds Italian, it is not. It’s something that was created in San Francisco. Isn’t that funny? A well-made cioppino is excellent, but it’s not really Italian even though you can find some similar dishes in Italy, I have never seen Cioppino.

I would be very curious to see the cuisine in Australia, if it went through the same trends and if it evolved like cuisine in the US did. Australia being also a new country, it might have had a similar phenomenon. A friend of mine gave me an Australian cook book she bought over there, and I have to say that the cuisine is very interesting with lots of influences too but put together differently.

Anyway, going back to Fregola, which is somehow the topic of this post, it can be cooked like risotto, or like pasta, or used in soups, or like couscous. It is a very versatile little ball and really delicious.

Ingredients for 3-4

  • 1 cup fregola
  • 2 zucchini, sliced crosswise
  • 10 medium size mushrooms
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 saffron dose
  • 2 cups or more vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Fresh parmigiano reggiano, grated
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper


Infuse broth with saffron for about 20 minutes.

In a medium pot, heat olive oil, add shallots and brown them. Add fregola and coat it with olive oil as you would do for risotto. Add saffron broth and wine gradually. Adjust with salt and pepper.

Grill zucchini in a grill pan and cut in smaller pieces. Set aside. Saute mushrooms in 1 tsp olive oil, and cook until the water evaporates.  Mix with zucchini.

When fregola is cooked. Add vegetables, and stir well. Add parmiggiano and serve hot.