Sardinian-Style Paella


Fregola, the pearl-size Sardinian pasta that is quite similar to couscous, makes a terrific substitute for rice in this paella-style dish; it soaks up a lot of the cooking liquid from the seafood, tomato and chorizo stew and still stays nicely chewy. For such an impressive main course, it can be prepared surprisingly quickly. More Paella Recipes

Sardinian-Style Paella
Photo: © Frances Janisch
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs


  • Large pinch of saffron threads

  • 6 1/2 cups warm water

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 1 pound fregola (2 1/4 cups)

  • 1/2 pound chorizo, thinly sliced

  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined

  • 2 pounds red snapper, cod or monkfish, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded

  • 1 pound cockles, scrubbed

  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. In a small bowl, crumble the saffron in 1/2 cup of the warm water and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a very large, deep sauté pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 2 minutes. Add the fregola and chorizo and cook, stirring, until the chorizo releases some of its fat and starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, white wine, saffron and its soaking liquid and the remaining 6 cups of warm water to the sauté pan and bring to a boil. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, cover and cook over low heat until the fregola is very chewy and soupy, about 10 minutes.

  2. Season the shrimp and red snapper with salt and pepper and add them to the pan along with the mussels and cockles, nestling them into the fregola. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the fregola is al dente, the fish is just cooked through and the mussels and cockles have opened, about 12 minutes longer.

  3. Remove the pan from the heat and let the paella stand for 5 minutes; the fregola will absorb a bit more of the liquid, but the dish should be a bit brothy. Discard any mussels and cockles that haven't opened. Sprinkle the fregola with the chopped parsley and serve right away.

Suggested Pairing

To complement—but not overpower—her Sardinian-Style Paella, Maria Helm Sinskey goes for fragrant rosés from the same part of the world.

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