The flavorful dressing in this fregola pasta salad lends itself to the vibrant spring asparagus.
Once asparagus season starts, I’m happy! It’s not quite here yet locally, but I couldn’t wait, and used the last of the frozen asparagus in one of my favorite salads to console myself after the appearance of more snow flurries this morning!
Little pasta pearls
Fregola (fregula) is a toasted, tiny Sardinian semolina pasta that resembles Israel couscous in size. The toasted flavor adds much to the end product! I usually buy this at an Italian market, but I’ve seen it in health foods stores and co-ops as well, and you might even be able to find it in a larger grocery store. If you can’t find it, just toast some Israel couscous in a dry skillet until it starts to brown. It’s not exactly the same, but a good substitute.
Fresh may be best, the pantry and freezer are your friends too
Make this in spring when the asparagus’s at its best, or in the summer when fresh corn and sweet cherry tomatoes are available. It’s a wonderful recipe for left-over roasted corn! Of course, if fresh artichokes are in season, use those.
Make this any time
It is also a summery dish to make in the winter and early spring –– or if you are quarantined –– by using pantry ingredients, frozen and canned vegetables, and the nicest tomato you can find if there are no beautiful cherry tomatoes. I seeded and chopped up a rather luscious looking and pretty good tasting organic tomato for this version because there were no cherries that looked good when I went to the market.
Vary the vegetables
You don’t have to stick to the recipe! Use other vegetables if you like, including green beans, cucumbers, squash, olives, peppers, peas, broccoli, or beans! Use your imagination, and what you have on hand. In the summer, when the corn is perfect, I might just add extra corn and tomatoes and call it done.
If you can make this a few hours ahead, all the better, and the next day, it will be even more flavorful, that is, if you have any leftover.
It looks like a lot of ingredients, but most of it gets dumped in a large bowl to hang out together waiting for the fregola to cook!
Fregola Salad with Asparagus and Artichokes
- 8 ounces toasted Fregola
- 3 or 4 anchovy filets, rinsed and finely minced, optional
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup or so sherry vinegar
- 1 heaping tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 3 cloves garlic, through garlic press
- 1 tbsp. dark maple syrup
- 2 tbsp capers and a bit of the brine
- 1/2 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika
- 1/2 cup finely minced purple onion
- ½ cup minced flat-leafed parsley
- 6 or 7 basil leaves, chopped
- 1 box frozen artichoke hearts, or use 1 can, rough chop
- 1 ½ to 2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, OR 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 lb, fresh or frozen asparagus, blanched and chopped
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add fregola. Cook according to package directions, usually 8 to 10 minutes. It will depend on the brand and the size.
While pasta is cooking, in a large mixing bowl, combine anchovy filets, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, syrup, capers, paprika, and a little salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine.
Add the onions so they can hang out with the vinaigrette for a little while to lose a bit of their bite. Also, add the parsley, artichoke hearts, basil, corn, and tomatoes, reserving anything you like for garnish.
When pasta is cooked, drain and cool down with cold water to prevent sticking. Add to the bowl and mix well, then gently mix in the asparagus so you don’t break up the pretty tips too much. Place in a serving bowl and garnish as you like.
Serve as a side dish, or main bowl with protein of choice on top. It is also delicious in little lettuce wraps!
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