What's Fabulous: Fregola
Fregola is a semolina pasta that looks like toasted breadcrumbs or large pearls of couscous. Originated in Sardinia, one of Italy's large islands, fregola is usually made by hand and sometimes flavored with saffron.
The word itself is Italian for "crumb" and that's what fregola can be mistaken for -- until you taste it. It has a flavor of a nutty, toasted pasta which makes it a satisfying main ingredient in a pasta salad or as a side dish to seafood, another Sardinian specialty.
Fregola is also often added to soups, as in the popular "Italian wedding soup" that has little meatballs, shreds of spinach, and chicken stock. It can be simply boiled and then tossed with a small drizzle of olive oil, grated Pecorino cheese, and diced parsley. The toasted flavor matches well with chickpeas. And it has enough flavor to stand up to chopped raw vegetables and a vinaigrette dressing to make an appealing and versatile pasta salad.
It's cooked in boiling salted water and depending on its size, can take longer to cook than couscous or small pasta. Just test it periodically so that it's cooked al dente.
Fregola can be found in most Italian specialty markets, at large food markets either alongside pasta or where ingredients like couscous and farro are found, and in other specialty food markets. A 14 oz. bag of fregola purchased recently at Kalustyan's cost $8.99.