Fregola e Ceci

Note the color variations in the toasted grains - cooked fregola has a very toasty flavor

Note the color variations in the toasted grains – cooked fregola has a very toasty flavor

I am positively bewitched by pasta in all of its humble forms. Today’s pasta selection is fregola (or fregula – from the Italian verb fregare, meaning “to rub”), an ancient form of pasta that originated in Sardegna (probably vis-à-vis contact with Arab cultures of North Africa). It is made from coarsely ground semolina grains, sprinkled with warm water to form pellets that are dried and grated, and then toasted. Fregola has a nutty, toasted (almost slightly burnt) flavor and is traditionally cooked like pasta, but may also be cooked in the manner of risotto, whereby liquid is gradually added as it is absorbed. This recipe reflects a hybrid of the two.

Fregola e Ceci

Recipe by Majella Home Cooking ©

Serves 4-6

  • 1 ½ quarts of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling at the end)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
  • Peperoncino (optional)
  • 1 pound of fregola
  • 1/3 cup diced pancetta
  • 2 cups canned peeled whole tomatoes (processed into a smooth pulp in the food processor)
  • 1 lb of cooked chick peas (or a 19-oz can of chick peas), drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat chicken or vegetable broth in a medium saucepan and keep warm (but not boiling) over a low flame. Place onion, celery, garlic, and peperoncino (if using) in the bowl of a food processor and chop finely. Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until shimmering, then add the onion mixture, minced rosemary, ½ teaspoon of salt and several grindings of black pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is slightly golden, and add the pancetta. Continue to cook over a gentle flame for about 3-4 minutes, until the pancetta begins to color, but before it becomes crispy. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the chick peas and simmer for an additional 5 minutes, until the chick peas soften. Finally, add the fregola and about a quart (two-thirds) of the hot broth. Allow to simmer over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent the fregola from scorching on the bottom. When most of the broth has been absorbed, taste the fregola and if it is still too hard, add the remainder of the broth and simmer until the fregola is al dente – don’t forget to continue stirring! (Add a bit more stock or hot water if all of the broth has been absorbed and the fregola is still too hard.) The finished product should have the texture of a thick soup, without being overly brothy. Add the chopped parsley, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. Buon appetito!

Fregola e Ceci

Fregola e Ceci


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2 thoughts on “Fregola e Ceci

  1. Antonette February 28, 2013 at 7:57 am Reply

    Great recipe..definitely making it since we love ceci….just to share..where we come from in Salerno we have always made ceci with homemade “fettucini” in a light tomato sauce…where my husband comes from in Matera which I have adapted, they make it with carmelized onions and garlic with any type of small pasta and bay leaf in bianco with brodo!! Thanks for giving me an “extra version”..can always count on you doing the “leg work”!! LOL!!

    • Majella Home Cooking February 28, 2013 at 7:19 pm Reply

      Antonette, Much obliged 🙂 My favorite bean is the chick pea. In Abruzzo, Sagne e Ceci is also in bianco — with a bit of pancetta and rosemary. My oldest son, Mikey goes nuts for it!

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