Photo Credit: Elizabeth Newman
Fregola is such a wonderful little pasta shape, and I really feel like it’s underrated in the United States. Visually similar to pearl couscous, it’s a very small pasta shape from Sardinia, Italy. What makes it extra special is that fregola is toasted, which gives it a great depth of flavor other pasta doesn’t have. It’s perfect for this pasta salad, but you can also substitute it out with orzo if fregola is difficult to get your hands on.
This pasta salad is great for any season – it showcases seasonal bright citrus in fall and winter, and it’s lovely for potlucks and picnics in spring and summer. Grapefruit and orange add a great tang and sweetness, while mint and basil add a fresh herbaceous quality.
It gets tastier after the flavors marry together in the fridge for a few hours, and even up to overnight. If serving it the next day, give it a drizzle of olive oil to refresh it before serving.
Fregola Pasta Salad With Citrus
For the orange oil:
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 orange, zested
For the salad:
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1 pound fregola pasta, such as Pastaio di Nuoro (or orzo)
- 1 orange, cut into segments
- 1 pink grapefruit, cut into segments
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- For the orange oil: Combine the olive oil and the orange zest in a small bowl and set aside.
- For the salad: Bring the large saucepan of chicken broth to a boil over high heat. Add the fregola pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain pasta onto a large baking sheet. Spread to a single layer and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, using a small knife cut the skin off the orange and grapefruit. Over a large bowl, cut out the segments of the citrus flesh and catch the juices. Add the onion, mint, basil, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and cooled fregola pasta.
- Add the reserved orange oil to the pasta. Toss all the ingredients together and serve.