Fregola is a small, round pasta from Sardinia. It’s made by hand and has a rustic exterior that absorbs sauce well. This preparation is somewhere between a stew and a thick soup, but you can also cook the fregola in boiling water, as you would other pastas. It’s more readily available now in Italian specialty shops, but if you have trouble finding it, you could adapt this recipe with another small pasta shape, like orzo or ditalini. If halibut is not available, a nice piece of any firm white fish, or even salmon, would also be very good.
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 4 cups hot chicken stock, preferably homemade or low-sodium store-bought
- 1 1/4 pounds skinless halibut fillet, cut into large chunks
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch scallions, including green parts, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Peperoncino flakes
- 1 cup fregola
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Steep the saffron in the hot stock for 5 minutes. Season the halibut with 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Brown the halibut all over, 2 to 3 minutes, and remove it to a plate.
Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Add the scallions, and cook until they’re just wilted, about 2 minutes. Clear a spot on the bottom of the skillet, and add the tomato paste, thyme, and a pinch of peperoncino. Cook and stir the tomato paste in that spot until it toasts and darkens a shade or two; then add the fregola. Stir to coat the fregola in the tomato paste, and add the white wine. Bring it to a simmer, and cook until the wine is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add the hot chicken stock with the saffron, and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Adjust the heat so the mixture is simmering gently. Cover, and cook until the fregola is cooked through but still has a bit of a bite to it- 10 to 13 minutes, depending on brand and size- uncovering halfway through to add the peas.
Uncover, and add the halibut chunks on top. Cover, and simmer just to heat the halibut through and finish cooking it, about 2 minutes. Season with salt if needed. Sprinkle with the parsley, stir gently, and serve with the fregola as the base and the halibut on top.
Active Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes