Have you heard of Fregola before? No? Yes? Have you had it?
The first time I heard of it was on the Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure show when they were visiting Sardinia. It looked pretty good, but then again, pretty much anything on TV looks good. Pasta and fish…how can you go wrong, anyway? I somehow would up buying the cookbook of the show (not something I normally do – buy tv chef cookbooks – ok, other than Jamie Oliver, James Martin and Heston Blumenthal, that is). But I bought it and it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust, until I was looking for Sardinian recipes to put me in the mood for my upcoming vacation.
I discovered that I had a package of fregola sitting in my pasta cupboard (a random purchase from my last trip to Italy), and decided to cook it up at home. It was…good-ish. Well, considering that fresh shellfish is pretty much hard to come by in Switzerland so I had to rely on frozen. A bit too starchy, but not too bad. Or at least, it inspired me to want to try the real thing while on vacation. And last night I did.
We were searching for a place to eat and saw a little door in the wall, just around the corner from where we are staying: Trattoria Caragol. The host/owner welcomed us and led us to our table in a narrow room, with arched stone ceiling.
As we are still working on finding a balance between having a proper dinner and dining with a 3 year old, we generally try to speed things along by splitting a course or two. The menu was tempting: the owner said the fish is all fresh caught in the summer and the meats cone from his farm. I really had my heart set on fish, as I often do, so I decided to go that route. We decided to split the trio of fish cold antipasti. Beautiful. Tender. Even our daughter happily ate some of the squid salad.
Then came the Fregola. Why, why, why did we split it? The pasta was al dente, the shellfish sweet, plump, tender. The broth was just a perfect balance of tomato, wine and brine. Perfectly seasoned. Really, words are failing me at this point. Now I’ve eaten some good food in my life (plenty of Michelin stars under my belt – literally), but this was one of the finest bits of cooking that I have eaten. Ever.
The rest of the meal? Good. Very good, in fact. I had the pistachio crusted tuna, my husband the olive and caper swordfish and our daughter the lasagna (of course. She’s 3).
The dessert was a semi fredo for my husband and I had the traditional Sardinian Seada – kind of like a deep fried, cheese and lemon stuffed ravioli slathered in honey. Wow. Yes please. It was all good. So good in fact, that we made reservations or Saturday night there do we can try some of the gorgeous piles of meat that we saw go past.
But seriously, the Fregola. I might have to get that again.