The Italian island of Sardinia (Sardegna in Italian) is famous for many regional dishes. One of our absolute favorites is this Fregola Pasta Recipe with Clams!
A quintessential Mediterranean diet recipe, this dish is quick, easy and delicious.
Watch the Video Recipe!
Learn how to make Sardinian Fregola Pasta Recipe with Clams with Italian Grandma Lulu in this video recipe, filmed in Italy:
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Making Fregola Pasta with Clams
Scroll to the bottom of this page to see our step-by-step recipe for making Fregola Pasta with Clams.
What is Fregola Pasta?
Fregola is a Sardinian pasta is similar to Israeli couscous. It’s called frègula in Sardegna and usually fregola outside the island. It’s a semola pasta that’s toasted and the little balls of pasta are sold in different dimensions.
Frègula is frequently paired with shellfish: clams, mussels or both!
Where can I find fregola pasta?
It’s not that easy to find fregola in a common supermarket, nor in specialty Italian shops. Fortunately, many authentic brands of fregola pasta can be purchased on Amazon. In fact, the brand you see above (La Casa del Grano) is a brand we often use when making this dish in Italy!
Shop this Traditional Sardinian Fregola Pasta on Amazon [affiliate link].
The Mediterranean sea surrounding the island of Sardegna is world-renowned for its fresh seafood and shellfish! Clams (called arselle in Sardinian) are popular throughout Italy in pasta, but it is especially traditional with fregola.
Tips for Fresh Clams
Are the Clams Still Alive and Healthy?
Give each clam a tap on a work surface. Those that remain closed are likely healthy.
How to Clean Clams Before Cooking Them
Soak the healthy clams in salted water for at least 2 hours.
Use 2 tablespoons (35 g) of salt per 4 cups (1 liter) of water for the salt water solution.
Drain the water solution before adding the clams to the pan for steaming.
Removing Sand from the Broth
After steaming the clams, STRAIN all of the clam broth produced before using it. This will remove any residual sand.
Which Clams to Discard
Discard any clams that do not open with the others after steaming. They should not be consumed.
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Sardinian Fregola Pasta Recipe with Clams
Steamed Clams (and Clam Broth)
- 2 ¼ lb fresh clams
- ½ cup white wine optional
- 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley minced
- 9 oz fregola pasta
- 4 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 2 cloves fresh garlic
- 2 small fresh red chili pepper or to taste
- 22 oz whole canned peeled tomatoes crushed (blended to a pulpy sauce)
- 2 pinches fine salt or to taste
- 4 cups vegetable broth
Prepare the Clams (Purge Sand)
- Give each clam a tap on a work surface. Those that close or remain closed are likely healthy. Discard the rest.
- Soak the clams in salted water for 2 hours. Use 2 tablespoons (35 g) of salt per 4 cups (1 liter) of water for the salt water solution.
- After the 2 hours: Remove the clams from the salt water with a slotted spoon or strainer, taking care not to disturb the sand that has fallen to the bottom during the soak. We want to keep that sand out of our clams, which is why we have soaked them!
Steam the Clams
- To a large skillet over high heat: Add the clams (still in the shells) along with a few sprigs of flat leaf Italian parsley. Add a splash of white wine if you like (optional).
- Steam covered until most of the clams have opened their shells—a few minutes. Discard any clams with shells that do not open.
- Transfer all of the clams along with the broth they've produced into a bowl.
Crush the Whole Tomatoes
- For the sauce, you can either buy (unseasoned) crushed tomatoes or crush whole canned tomatoes yourself. Canned whole peeled tomatoes tend to be much sweeter than commercial crushed tomatoes, which is why we want to make our own crushed tomatoes with them.
- Remove the water and seeds from inside the whole peeled tomatoes. Then use a blender, immersion blender or tomato strainer to create a pulpy sauce from the whole tomatoes. Set the tomatoes aside.
Heat Vegetable Broth
- Bring the vegetable broth to a simmer. We'll need the hot broth to cook the fregola slowly in the skillet like a risotto! In the meantime…
Prepare the Sauce
- Return the skillet to the heat. Cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil.
- Add the whole garlic cloves (lightly crushed) and fresh chili pepper to the olive oil. Sauté the garlic and pepper a minute or so, in the olive oil—or until the garlic begins to turn golden.
- Then, add the crushed tomatoes to the skillet as well along with a pinch of salt.
Cook the Pasta in the Sauce
- Add the fregola to the sauce along with 3 ladles of hot vegetable broth.
- Remove most of the clams from their shells and add the clam meat to the sauce. Strain the clam broth into the sauce as well, to remove any last bits of sand. Leave just a bit of broth with the clams in the shell to keep them from drying out.
- Cook the fregola for about 45 minutes (or according to package instructions). Add a few more ladles of broth when you see that the previous broth has been absorbed by the pasta. Continue adding broth as needed for the entire cook time. Taste for doneness! Fregola tends to take a bit longer than the package instructions indicate. We are looking for an al dente texture.
- At the end of the cook time, remove and discard the garlic and chili pepper. They've done their job!
- Add minced flat leaf parsley to the pasta before plating, as well as the clams in the shells to heat them back up. Buon appetito!