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On this Italian island, they build soup with ample herbs and tiny nuggets of pasta
Milk Street Bowtie Sardinian Herb Soup with Fregola and White Beans (S’erbuzzu)

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

Appears in March-April 2020

45 minutes

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

Free

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.

4

Servings

Tip

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

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
3-4 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems minced, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately
1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
½ cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup fregola (see note)
15½ ounce can large white beans, such as butter beans, rinsed and drained
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces ricotta salata cheese (see note), crumbled (¾ cup)
4 ounces baby arugula (about 6 cups lightly packed), roughly chopped
½ cup lightly packed fresh tarragon, chopped
Ingredients
  • 2

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

  • 3-4

    ounces pancetta, chopped

  • 1

    bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems minced, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately

  • teaspoons fennel seeds

  • ½

    cup dry white wine

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 2

    quarts low-sodium chicken broth

  • ¾

    cup fregola (see note)

  • 15½

    ounce can large white beans, such as butter beans, rinsed and drained

  • 3

    medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 4

    ounces ricotta salata cheese (see note), crumbled (¾ cup)

  • 4

    ounces baby arugula (about 6 cups lightly packed), roughly chopped

  • ½

    cup lightly packed fresh tarragon, chopped

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Reviews
Jen R.
September 12, 2022
Amazing!
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.

DAWN M.

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. "

Best,
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.

Best,
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!

Best,
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.


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

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

45 minutes

Tip

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.

Ingredients
  • 2

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

  • 3-4

    ounces pancetta, chopped

  • 1

    bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems minced, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately

  • teaspoons fennel seeds

  • ½

    cup dry white wine

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 2

    quarts low-sodium chicken broth

  • ¾

    cup fregola (see note)

  • 15½

    ounce can large white beans, such as butter beans, rinsed and drained

  • 3

    medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 4

    ounces ricotta salata cheese (see note), crumbled (¾ cup)

  • 4

    ounces baby arugula (about 6 cups lightly packed), roughly chopped

  • ½

    cup lightly packed fresh tarragon, chopped

Step 1 of 3

Combine Ingredients In Pot

2
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3-4
ounces pancetta, chopped
1
bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems minced
teaspoons fennel seeds
½
cup dry white wine
Ground black pepper

In a large pot over medium, heat the oil and pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the parsley stems and fennel seeds, then add the wine and 1 teaspoon pepper, scraping up any browned bits.


Bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring, until most of the moisture has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 2 of 3

Cook Until Fregola Is Tender

2
quarts low-sodium chicken broth
¾
cup fregola (see note)
15½
ounce can large white beans, such as butter beans, rinsed and drained
3
medium garlic cloves, minced
1
bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
2
ounces ricotta salata cheese

Add the broth and bring to a boil over high. Stir in the fregola and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat to maintain a simmer, until the fregola is just shy of tender, about 10 minutes.


Add the beans, garlic, parsley leaves and half of the ricotta salata, then continue to cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat to maintain a bare simmer, until the fregola is fully tender, about another 10 minutes.

Step 3 of 3

Finish and Serve

4
ounces baby arugula (about 6 cups lightly packed), roughly chopped
½
cup lightly packed fresh tarragon, chopped
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2
ounces ricotta salata cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil to serve

Off heat, stir in the arugula and tarragon, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the remaining ricotta salata and drizzled with additional oil.

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