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Sardinia's nutty, chewy fregola pasta pairs perfectly with fresh herbs and seafood
Milk Street Bowtie Fregola with Shrimp and Tomatoes

Fregola with Shrimp and Tomatoes

1 hour 10 minutes

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Fregola with Shrimp and Tomatoes

Free

This is our simplified version of the fregola with seafood and tomato sauce taught to us by chef Francesco Pinna at Trattoria Lillicu in Sardinia. Cooking the pasta in chicken broth and bottled clam juice that were first simmered with shrimp shells adds deep complexity without calling for a lengthy ingredient list. If your shrimp already are shelled, remove the tails and use those to infuse the liquid. And if you have trouble finding fregola, an equal amount of toasted pearl couscous is a good stand-in; see p. 18 for toasting instructions. You'll also need to reduce the chicken broth to only 2 cups. And after cooking the fregola for 8 to 10 minutes following the second addition of shrimp-infused broth, remove the pot from the heat before adding the shrimp.

4

Servings

Tip

Don't fully cook the shrimp when browning them. They'll be only parcooked when they come out of the pot, but will finish in the residual heat of the fregola. After adding the shrimp to the fregola, don't forget to cover the pot, as this traps heat for cooking the shrimp.

1 hour 10 minutes

1½ pounds extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (shells reserved), deveined and patted dry
2 8-ounce bottles clam juice
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
1 cup fregola (see note)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Ingredients
  • pounds extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (shells reserved), deveined and patted dry

  • 2

    8-ounce bottles clam juice

  • 3

    cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 4

    bay leaves

  • 1

    sprig fresh thyme

  • 1

    tablespoon black peppercorns

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 4

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1

    pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1

    medium yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 1

    medium carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, finely grated

  • 1

    cup fregola (see note)

  • 2

    tablespoons lemon juice

  • ½

    cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions
  1. 01
    In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the shrimp shells, clam juice, chicken broth, bay, thyme and peppercorns. Microwave on high until the shrimp tails have turned pink and the mixture is very hot, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh strainer set over another medium bowl; discard the solids in the strainer.
    See Demo
    shrimp-tomato-fregola-step-1
  2. 02
    Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. In a large pot over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until barely smoking. Add half the shrimp and cook without stirring until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large plate. Repeat with 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil and the remaining shrimp.
    See Demo
    shrimp-tomato-fregola-step-2
  3. 03
    Return the pot to medium-high and add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil. Add the tomatoes, onion, carrot and ¼ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are spotty brown and the onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
    See Demo
    shrimp-tomato-fregola-step-3
  4. 04
    Add the garlic and fregola then cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 2 cups of the shrimp broth, then bring to a simmer. Reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the remaining broth, return to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 cup broth and cook, stirring constantly, until the fregola is tender and the mixture is creamy but not soupy, another 6 to 8 minutes.
    See Demo
    shrimp-tomato-fregola-step-4
  5. 05
    Off the heat, stir in the shrimp and accumulated juices, the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the lemon juice and parsley. Cover and let stand until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
    See Demo
    shrimp-tomato-fregola-step-5
  6. 06
    Pearl couscous, sometimes called Israeli couscous, makes an acceptable substitute for Sardinian fregola, but it must be toasted. To toast, put the couscous in a dry, large pot (the same one you'll later use to cook the dish). Cook over medium, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Even after toasting, the couscous will absorb liquid differently than fregola, so be sure to adjust the broth as directed in the recipe notes.
Tip: Don't fully cook the shrimp when browning them. They'll be only parcooked when they come out of the pot, but will finish in the residual heat of the fregola. After adding the shrimp to the fregola, don't forget to cover the pot, as this traps heat for cooking the shrimp.
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Reviews
Anne B.
September 2, 2022
Trader joe grain
This is my second time making this dish and I use from trader joe there multi mix grain because I can not find fregola and I must say it’s delicious
Jett P.
July 31, 2022
Summertime stew: what a treat!
This was a lovely little stew to enjoy while watching the summer storms roll in. I made the fregola from scratch as described in the article, and it the toasted earthiness and lovely chewiness was reminiscent of pearled barley - my recommendation for who would have to special order semolina, fregola, or pearled couscous otherwise. I kept sneaking bites as it simmered, it was so yummy, but my tomatoes were very tart so I’d also recommend cooks taste before adding the lemon juice at the end. I’m off to sneak a bite from the leftovers!
Lynn S.

I’ve made this dish about 5 times - it is amazing. I had trouble finding fregola locally so I had to order it online, but it’s worth it. The recipe has several steps and requires attention, but there’s a payoff in the end - a superflavorful lemon-y comforting dish with perfectly cooked shrimp. One step I don’t bother with is halving the cherry tomatoes - they fall apart during the long cooking time whole or halved.

Jovanna K.

Great recipe! Tastes even better the next day. Added some hot pepper flakes for some heat, and a bit more lemon juice. Used the fregola from Milk Street which was very good.

Wendy P.

I wish the recipe (and others as well) would be a bit more specific about the pot to be used. I'm often confused by what some of the terms really mean pan/pot/saute pan/straight sided pan and the best size to use.

Wendy P.

Update: Made this tonight, just a half a recipe. It was very meh. Never again.

Lynn C.

Hi Wendy -

For some recipes, the pot isn't as important as in other recipes, so we don't get as specific. For this recipe a large saucepan or Dutch oven would work fine.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Ramona W.

Made Fregola with Shrimp and Tomatoes for dinner tonight, it was a big hit. Layers of flavor in one pot meal. Thanks for the recipe! Mine came out more creamy like risotto, I put pictures up on MS facebook page. It was so good.

Kathy M.

Would like to make this for a pescatarian friend who does not eat meat. And I don’t care for clam juice. Wonder if I could amp up the flavor by sautéing shrimp shells from the shrimp, and if that might be enough flavor. Maybe add a tiny bit of wine to deglaze.

Lynn C.

Hi Kathy -

We would recommend following the recipe using a homemade (or trusted store-bought) vegetable broth. The small amount of shrimp shells here isn't enough to really flavor water in the amount called for in the recipe (1 1/2 lbs. shrimp shells: 5 cups of water). We found we had to use broth, clam juice *and* the shrimp shells as opposed to just water to get a really flavorful dish.

Best,
The Milk Street Team


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Fregola with Shrimp and Tomatoes

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

1 hour 10 minutes

Tip

Don't fully cook the shrimp when browning them. They'll be only parcooked when they come out of the pot, but will finish in the residual heat of the fregola. After adding the shrimp to the fregola, don't forget to cover the pot, as this traps heat for cooking the shrimp.

Ingredients
  • pounds extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (shells reserved), deveined and patted dry

  • 2

    8-ounce bottles clam juice

  • 3

    cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 4

    bay leaves

  • 1

    sprig fresh thyme

  • 1

    tablespoon black peppercorns

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 4

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1

    pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1

    medium yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 1

    medium carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, finely grated

  • 1

    cup fregola (see note)

  • 2

    tablespoons lemon juice

  • ½

    cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Step 1 of 6

Create Shrimp Broth

pounds extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (shells reserved), deveined and patted dry
2
8-ounce bottles clam juice
3
cups low-sodium chicken broth
4
bay leaves
1
sprig fresh thyme
1
tablespoon black peppercorns

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the shrimp shells, clam juice, chicken broth, bay, thyme and peppercorns.


Microwave on high until the shrimp tails have turned pink and the mixture is very hot, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh strainer set over another medium bowl; discard the solids in the strainer.

Step 2 of 6

Cook Shrimp

Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. In a large pot over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until barely smoking. Add half the shrimp and cook without stirring until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes.


Transfer to a large plate. Repeat with 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil and the remaining shrimp.

Step 3 of 6

Cook Vegetables

1
tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1
pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1
medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1
medium carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
½
teaspoon kosher salt

Return the pot to medium-high and add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil. Add the tomatoes, onion, carrot and ¼ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are spotty brown and the onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Step 4 of 6

Cook Fregola

2
medium garlic cloves, finely grated
1
cup fregola
3
cups low-sodium chicken broth

Add the garlic and fregola then cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 2 cups of the shrimp broth, then bring to a simmer.


Reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the remaining broth, return to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes.


Stir in the remaining 1 cup broth and cook, stirring constantly, until the fregola is tender and the mixture is creamy but not soupy, another 6 to 8 minutes.

Step 5 of 6

Add Finishing Touches and Serve

1
tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2
tablespoons lemon juice
½
cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Off the heat, stir in the shrimp and accumulated juices, the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the lemon juice and parsley. Cover and let stand until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Step 6 of 6

Faux Fregola

Pearl couscous, sometimes called Israeli couscous, makes an acceptable substitute for Sardinian fregola, but it must be toasted. To toast, put the couscous in a dry, large pot (the same one you'll later use to cook the dish).


Cook over medium, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Even after toasting, the couscous will absorb liquid differently than fregola, so be sure to adjust the broth as directed in the recipe notes.

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