Fregola replaces rice in this Sardinian paella, the chewy, dot-shaped semolina pasta comes from the western part of Sardinia, near Oristano, where more than four centuries of Spanish occupation left Catalan influences that are still prominent today. In another change from the traditional Spanish recipe, this version is made with oniy seafood (no chorizo).
Vermentino, Sardinia’s most widely known native white, has a zesty citrus character that makes it a perfect counterpoint to the shellfish. However, it can be difficult to find. Two terrific, easy to find alternatives are the light, refreshing 2006 Santa Maria La Palma Aragosta and the 2006 Sella & Mosca La Cala.
- 1 quart fish mock or bottled clam juice
- 1/4 teaypoun saffron threads
- 1 pound fresh fava beans, shelled (I cup)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cups fregola (11 ounces); see Note
- 16 liftleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed
- 16 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 1 cup dry sherry
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 3 plum tomatoes—halved, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup drained sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 5 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 4 ounces medium shrimp, shelled and deveined.
- 4 ounces squid, bodies cut crosswise into 1-inch rings, tentacles left whole
- One 4-ounce piece of monkfish, cut into. 2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons chopped dill
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a medium saucepan, bring the fish stock to a simmer. Transfer 1 cup of the hot cooking liquid to a measuring cup and crumble in the saffron. Add the fava beans to the remaining stock and cook over moderate heat until bright green, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fava beans to a plate. Squeeze the beans out of their tough outer skins. Cover the remaining stock; keep warm over low heat.
- In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the fregola and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until it is well coated with the oil, about 2 minutes. Add the clams, mussels and 1 cup of the hot stock and stir constantly until the shellfish start to open, about 4 minutes; discard any clams or mussels that don’t open.
- Add the sherry and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lava beans, sliced red and green bell peppers, plum tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves and rosemary. Add the remaining 2 cups of hot fish stock and the saffron-infused stock to the fregola. Lower the heat to moderate and cook, stirring frequently, until the fregola is just tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add the shrimp, squid and monkfish to the fregola and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the seafood is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme and rosemary sprigs. Stir in the dill and sea on with salt and pepper. Serve the paella immediately in shallow bowls.
Fregola, the toasted pearl-size Sardinian pasta that is quite similar to couscous, is available at specialty food shops and some supermarkets.