A Recipe for Fregola Sarda with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, Celery Root, Carrots, Rutabaga, and Crispy Rosemary Olives & Baguette Croutons
Fregola sarda is a minuscule handmade pasta crafted from semolina and water and looks very similar to Israeli couscous. It is typically available dried and pre-toasted to enhance its nutty flavor. Fregola comes from the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of my favorite pastas that is available dried and perfect for those nights when we do not roll our own dough.
The origins of the word, fregola, stem from Latin and translates to crumbles or fragments. That is exactly what fregola looks like, toasted little balls of breadcrumbs. Historical documents date fregola to the 900s AD. Flick on Food has a great article about fregola. I loved the part about the rules for making fregola in the 1300s which restricted production to certain days of the week to avoid excess water usage.
As always, I had a selection of vegetables in my refrigerator that needed to be transformed into something delectable very soon. Fregola is typically prepared with tomatoes and often seafood. We have to wait a bit for tomato season to be in full swing in SC, so I decided upon a Sicilian style sundried tomato pesto instead. Sun-dried tomatoes have an intense flavor that I love and Sicilians often make their pesto using almonds or pistachios and fresh herbs. This is how I like to prepare an oil-free, spicy, Sicilian style pesto at home.
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
- 2 tbsp raw almonds
- 2 tbsp pistachios shelled
- 4 cloves garlic peeled
- 1/2-1 1/2 tsp crushed Calabrian chilies
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1/3-1/2 cup water
- Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 10 minutes. Then drain.
- Add drained sun-dried tomatoes, nuts, garlic, chilies, nutritional yeast, rosemary, and lemon juice to a blender.
- Add 1/3 cup of water and blend until smooth.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Add additional water 1-2 tbsp of water at a time if pesto is too thick.*
Left: preparation of olives, baguette pieces, minced garlic before toasting. Right: olives, baguette pieces, minced garlic crisped in air fryer.
Crispy Olives and Croutons with Rosemary and Garlic
- Air fryer or oven.
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup pitted olives (kalamata or mixed)
- 1-2 tbsp fresh rosemary minced
- 6 slices baguette cubed
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- Add all ingredients to a large bowl. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and toss to coat. Add additional olive oil if needed to coat bread.
- Place mixture in an air fryer and cook until golden brown. (It took about 20 minutes in my air fryer). You can also roast in the oven.
- Set aside and use as a topping.
Captivating Crumbles: Fregola Sarda with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, Celery Root, Carrots, Rutabaga
- 3-4 servings dried fregola
- 1 tbsp vegetable broth or olive oil
- 2 shallots minced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup celery root diced
- 1 1/2 cup rutabaga diced
- 2 cups rainbow carrots diced
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup sun-dried tomato pesto*
- Cook fregola according to the package directions. Before draining reserve 1-2 cups of cooking liquid.
- Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil or vegetable broth in a shallow pan over medium heat.
- Add shallots, garlic, celery root, rutabaga, and carrots to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add fresh herbs and cook another two minutes.
- Add the sun-dried tomato pesto and 1/2 cup of reserved fregola cooking liquid. Stir to combine.
- Taste and adjust seasonings. Add pesto, additional cooking liquid, or spices according to taste.
- Serve over fregola and top with crispy rosemary olives and croutons* and additional pesto if desired.