Fregula cun Cocciula (Sardinian Fregola with Clams)


This dish spotlights perfectly steamed clams and chewy fregola, a small round pasta from Sardinia, in a golden, spicy, briny broth. Place the clams in a colander and scrub them well under cold running water to remove any grit before steaming. The recipe, which Goodnight Hospitality culinary director Amber Burling developed for March restaurant in Houston, is especially delicious when matched with a Sardinian Vermentino. Sommeliers June Rodil and Mark Sayre, also of March, love it with the 2019 Vigne Rada Stria Vermentino di Sardegna. "Sardinian Vermentino is round, fleshy, and lemon curd–like, and you need that body to go with the heat of the clams," they say. "The salty, briny, orchard-fruit notes combat the richness of the fregola and heat from the red pepper flakes in the Fregula cun Cocciula."

Fregula cun Cocciula (Sardinian Fregola with Clams)
Photo: Photo by Cedric Angeles / Prop Styling by Stephanie Bohn
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
50 mins


  • ¼ cup dry white wine (such as Vermentino)

  • 2 pounds littleneck clams (about 30 clams), rinsed and scrubbed

  • 4 cups fish stock, plus up to 1 1/2 cups stock if needed, divided

  • 1 ¼ cups thinly sliced fennel bulb (from 1 small fennel head), fronds reserved for garnish

  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 20 saffron threads (about 1/4 teaspoon)

  • 1 ⅓ cups uncooked fregola

  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon), divided

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Bring wine to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium. Add clams; cover and cook, undisturbed, until clam shells have opened, 6 to 8 minutes. Discard any clams that did not open. Gently pour clam mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth into a heatproof bowl. Reserve opened clams and clam cooking liquid (liquor) separately. Measure clam liquor, and add fish stock as needed to equal 2 cups liquid. Set aside. Rinse saucepan clean, and wipe dry.

  2. Return saucepan to heat over medium-high. Add sliced fennel, garlic, and oil; cook, stirring often, until fennel just begins to lightly brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and crushed red pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until tomato paste darkens slightly, about 1 minute. Stir in reserved 2 cups clam liquor, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan. Add remaining 4 cups fish stock, salt, and saffron, and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Stir in fregola, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fregola is al dente, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and clams. Sprinkle with parsley, fennel fronds, and lemon zest.

Suggested Pairing

Vigne Rada Stria Vermentino di Sardegna


Find fregola at specialty grocery stores and online at

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