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Sardinian Herb Soup with Fregola and White Beans (S’erbuzzu)

4 Servings

45 minutes

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Traditionally, the Sardinian soup called s’erbuzzu is jammed with wild herbs and greens—sometimes more than 17 varieties. And with both fregola (a pea-shaped Sardinian pasta) and white beans in the mix, the soup—which we learned from Chef Luigi Crisponi at Santa Rughe restaurant in Gavoi—is as hearty and starchy as it is herbal. For our version, we narrowed the list of herbs and greens to those we felt had the most impact: parsley for grassiness, tarragon for sweet anise notes and arugula for pepperiness. We also used pancetta to build a savory backbone and ricotta salata cheese, as Sardinians do, for complexity. If you can’t find fregola, substitute an equal amount of pearl couscous, but cook it for only 5 minutes before adding the beans, parsley and garlic. And if ricotta salata is not available, finely grated pecorino Romano is a reasonable swap, but halve the amount.




Don’t forget to reserve the minced parsley stems separately from the chopped leaves. The stems go into the pot early on so they soften and infuse the broth with their herbal, minerally flavor; the leaves are added near the end so they retain their freshness and color.

45 minutes



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Jen R.
September 12, 2022
Absolutely love this soup. One of my new favorites!
Natalie N G.

I got a subscription because I wanted this recipe (I'm a NYT Cooking loyalist but love CK and Milk Street). I must say it was totally worth it. Made it today and it's fantastic. I ate three bowls for lunch! Subbed bacon for pancetta and pecorino for ricotta salata, but other than that followed the recipe exactly. Five stars.

Stacy D.

I made this last night. Followed directions exactly. Luckily our market had pancetta, ricotta salata, and I ordered 3 bags of fregola (so I can make more). Our house smelled amazing. This soup is so good I give it 5+ stars. This will be made over and over again. Thank you Milk Street for another amazing recipe!

Stacy D.

I have to add that I just had leftovers for lunch and the flavors really intensified over night. This is excellent, if not better, the next day.


This was absolutely wonderful. I did not use the pancetta, could not find ricotta salata at the store (used pecorino) and sub'd pearl couscous for the fregola...this will be on our regular rotation.

Kim S.

Just finished making this soup, totally outstanding in texture, flavour. Will make this again in a heartbeat!

Renee A.

I don't see the notes that I am directed to see. Can you help me find them i.e.3/4 cup fegola(see note?

Janelle C.

Hi Renee,

The notes are mentioned in the recipe description. The note regarding fregola is as followed, "If you can’t find fregola, substitute an equal amount of pearl couscous, but cook it for only 5 minutes before adding the beans, parsley and garlic. "

The Milk Street Team

Julia M.

I’m gluten free what can I substitute for the fregola?

Janelle C.

Hi Julia,

If you can't find a glutenfree version of fregola or couscous, try plain quinoa.

The Milk Street Team

Denise L.

A wonderful soup. I lightly crushed the fennel seeds, sauteed in bacon grease but didn't add bacon, used Greek mizithra for ricotta salata, and used basil instead of tarragon because that's what I had. I also didn't have enough chicken stock, so half the liquid was cooking liquid from the white beans I made (instead of canned). I've never really thought of arugula as an "herb" before, and it's delicious here.

Elsie H.

I agree with all of the above, this is a delicious soup. I have to substitute cured pork belly for pancetta and pecorino for salata, those two items are not available where I live unfortunately.
Just so delighted with this soup, that I am going to make the fregola and shrimp soup next from the Sept 2019 edition.

Lori O.

This recipe did not initially grab me until I read the reviews and decided to give it a try. So glad I did! Like all Milk Street recipes, I'm amazed at how a fairly simple list of ingredients comes together to create something so delicious. Like others, I subbed Pecorino for the Ricotta Salata (couldn't find it) but otherwise followed exactly. The Pecorino works great with it if that's all you can find.

Jennifer B.

Yes a couple of tweaks, bacon for pancetta and old fashioned ricotta for ricotta salata. Just delicious.

Paula E R.

It sounds sooooo good, except i'm a vegetarian. Is there a substitute for the pancetta? Maybe even just caramelize some chopped onion? or just forget about it and begin with the parsley stems and fennel seeds?

Lynn C.

Hi Paula - Another reader above omitted the pancetta and still loved the soup so that is definitely an option. If you eat fish, you could sauté a few anchovies in the oil until they break down and then add the parsley stems and fennel seeds. Adding a few reconstituted dried mushrooms would be nice too. I wouldn't add too many and I'd chop them pretty fine. You wouldn't want the mushrooms to take over the dish. They are meant to be more of a background flavor and add some "umami" as the pancetta would. Hope that helps!

The Milk Street Team

Laura L.

Looks so good-- I'm about to make it. I am using Israeli couscous because I couldn't find fregola last minute. I guess I'll toast the couscous first so it looks more like the fregola in the picture, but the recipe didn't mention doing it. Good idea? I'll find out. Can't hurt, I think.