Saffron Fregula with Potatoes and Peas

imageThis recipe is meant to be a primi course, as most pastas are, but it’s very filling and could certainly be a one dish meal. We paired it with an arugula and parmesan salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes and burrata cheese. Although my picture hardly does it justice, it is a very pretty dish with vibrant colors.

The star ingredient in this recipe is fregula (aka fregola), a Sardinian pasta that is similar to Israeli couscous. The pasta is made of hard durum wheat and toasted twice, giving it a wonderfully nutty flavor. It can be difficult to find in ordinary grocery stores so we bought ours from our favorite Italian importer Guidi Marcello. Some specialty grocers carry it, or you can buy it on Amazon.

The flavors in this dish marry beautifully together. The saffron gives everything a bright yellow hue, while the peperoncinos add a nice kick. Lemon provides a touch of acidity and the herbs and peas add pops of green. This recipe is taken from Serious Eats. Here is a link to the original  recipe.

Saffron Fregola with Potatoes and Peas
-4 to 6 servings-


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 medium, waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 8 ounces)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
A small pinch of red chili flakes or peperoncino
1 teaspoon kosher salt
A few grinds of black pepper
1 cup fregola
1 cup frozen peas
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
Extra virgin olive oil for finishing


1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy, deep sauté or sauce pan with a tightly fitting lid. Add the shallots and smashed garlic and sauté briefly, moving them around the pan with a wooden spoon. Season with a pinch of salt and add the potatoes to the pan, coating them with the oil; sauté the potatoes for a minute, moving them around the pan often.

2. Add the broth and water to the pan, followed by the saffron threads, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, then lower the heat slightly and cover the pan.

3. After five to seven minutes, test the potatoes with the tip of a paring knife. They should begin to turn tender, cooked about halfway. Add the fregola to the pan and stir, bringing the liquid back to a simmer. Cover the pan and continue to cook the fregola, stirring frequently as the liquid evaporates, for 10 to 12 minutes.

4. Uncover the pan and test the fregola for doneness, remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme, and adjust the seasoning. If necessary, you can add more water to pan as the fregola continues to cook, a few tablespoons at a time. When the fregola is almost completely tender, add the frozen peas and lemon juice to the pan and simmer for three more minutes, stirring until the peas are tender, the fregola cooked and the liquid almost completely evaporated.

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