Sardinian Seafood Pasta Gilded with Sardinian Saffron

In my view Sardinia is the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean, and it also offers some wonderful food – full of sun and summer.

Fregula (often spelt ‘fregola’) is a semolina pasta, typical of Sardinia which seems, in looks and texture, a bit like the love child of orzo pasta and pearl barley. There are different sizes of fregula – for this recipe I would recommend the large type. Fregola is a bit more tolerant to being kept warm than most pasta, but you shouldn’t leave it, covered in foil in a warming oven, too much longer than half an hour.

I wouldn’t recommend making this for more than two (you might just manage it for four) because you will run out of space in your frying pan, but this is a pretty straightforward recipe which doesn’t take long – about twenty minutes, all in.

For more about Sardinian food – in particular the fregula and the saffron, follow this link.

Recipe for Sardinian Seafood Pasta Gilded with Sardinian Saffron

Serves 2


  • 300g/11 oz frozen cooked prawns, or, even better, a mix of frozen cooked seafood – Waitrose does a mix of prawns, mussels and squid
  • 80g/3 oz diced pancetta (or four rashers of bacon)
  • 175g/1 cup/6 oz fregola
  • olive oil for frying, and, if you have it, so good finishing olive oil (in this case I was using a fruity Muraglia, but I also love The Gay Farmer’s peppery offering (see Marvels at Maltby Street Market)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt – you can do this as you make the recipe
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • about eight strands of saffron
  • a pinch of something hot and spicy – Aleppo pepper, Byadgi chilli, or Urfa pepper (care with this…it’s a bit of a pussy cat which turns into a lion)
  • grinds of pepper
  • 10 baby plum tomatoes
  • 80ml/⅓ cup pink Martini, or dry vermouth, or vintage dry cider
  • ½ lemon
  • some fresh thyme


  1. Defrost the seafood – ideally naturally, or if you are in a hurry, put it in a large sieve and run it under a warm tap.
  2. Boil a full kettle, pour it into a medium saucepan, bring to the boil, add a couple of teaspoons of salt.
  3. Add the fregula – cook exactly as it says on the packet, different sizes and types will take different amounts of time to cook. As a rough guide it will be about ten minutes. Be careful not to overcook, especially if you are planning on keeping it warm. Drain it and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, pour a glug of olive oil into a big frying pan, and add the pancetta.
  5. Peel and chop the onion, and add that to the frying pan.
  6. Peel and crush the garlic with the salt, Add to the frying pan.
  7. Add the dried oregano and the saffron, and whatever heat you’ve decided to add – a mild chilli.
  8. Halve the baby tomatoes and add them.
  9. Add the defrosted cooked seafood and heat through.
  10. Grind over the pepper.
  11. Add the pink Martini, or whatever booze you are using.
  12. Stir in the fregula.
  13. Put it all on a serving plate. Sprinkle over the fresh thyme, and drizzle over your finishing oil.
  14. Grate over the zest of the lemon, cut the lemon into wedges and serve with the seafood fregola for people to squeeze over at the last minute.
seafood fregola recipe
Sardinia – the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean
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