Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel is a dish perfect for Christmas eve. It is beautiful, delicious, furthermore, the texture will definitely tantalize your taste buds!
Song of the day: "When Christmas Comes" by Mariah Carey and John Legend.
Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel. Let's talk flavor. This dish has a wonderful fregola pasta that is nice and al dente, infused with a rich broth made with the shells and vegetable broth. Topping this wonderful dish, a succulent tender flavorful scampi, which is similar to the taste and texture of lobster. An all-round, balanced, beautiful dish that would be a hit for the night before Christmas!
It was the night before Christmas
For us traditional Italians, Christmas eve is all about fish and seafood. From fried alici, and baccalà fritters, to roasted fish, or Spaghetti con le vongole. The evening is a feast of the sea!
This year we were inspired by our travels to Sardegna, an island off the west coast of Italy. I can still remember the wonderful beaches, blue sky, the color of the water, and most of all the food. These travels I sure do miss, as this year has provided us with many challenges. However, when the going gets tough the tough get going and become creative.
A flavor of Sardegna
With that being said, we found this pasta called Fregola, which is similar to a pastina however a bit larger. Think of it like little pearls, perfectly round! It is normally done with seafood and the flavor and texture of this Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel is phenomenal!
Trying to figure out your menu for Christmas eve? How about a lovely dish like this. If you have seafood lovers in your family, then this is the plate for you!
Let us show you how it is made!
Let's gather the ingredients
This recipe is fairly simple as you know Italians like to keep it simple yet delicious! The ingredients go something like this:
- fregola pasta
- scampi shell on (or shrimp wild-caught preferably)
- mandarin orange
- fresh fennel
- vegetable broth
- bay leaf
- tomato paste
- olive oil
Marinating the scampi
The first thing you want to do is peel the shells off the scampi. We are going to use this later in making the broth. Leave the tails on. It makes for a nice presentation and also adds loads of flavor to this shellfish when sautéed. Secondly, we are going to squeeze some mandarins, peeled of course, over the scampi, I toss the squeezed mandarin into the shrimp too. We set this aside and allow it to marinate for an hour or so.
Making a rich seafood broth
Cooking fregola is similar to doing a risotto. It is a process of adding broth to a nicely toasted pasta, then slowly adding broth and stirring until it has that wonderful texture. We need to make our broth. I took some vegetable broth, then added bay leaf, tomato paste, and the shells of the scampi. This has to simmer on low for about half of an hour.
Time for some foodie love
To recap, our scampi is marinated, the broth is ready after we run it through a sieve. Now it is time to cook the fregola and scampi. I drizzle some olive oil into a sauté pan and I want to crisp up the fennel that is finely diced. I take those out of the pan and into a ramekin. Don't wash this pan, we are going to cook the scampi here and all of that flavor will just add to the already delicious scampi.
In another sauté pan I drizzle some more olive oil, just because, and toss the minced shallots in and some seasoning of salt and black pepper. A little heat and a stir and the aroma of the shallot comes forth. Time to drop in the fregola and get it all flavored up with the shallots, and more so, toasted.
In comes the broth
A ladle at a time we add the broth. I usually wait for the broth to be almost all gone in the pan before I add another ladle. The key, again, similar to a risotto, is to stir. This will keep the fregola from sticking and also release some of the richness into creaminess. After about 10-15 minutes your fregola should have a nice al dente texture.
A quick sauté
While the fregola is cooking you can quickly sauté the scampi: remember the pan we cooked the fennel in? Well, we are going to add some more olive oil and then bring it to medium heat. In goes the scampi and some tossing. About 1-2 minutes and these babies should be done.
A final added touch
To finish the fregola, we take it off the heat, add the cooked fennel, and also a nice grating of mandarin orange zest. A quick stir and it goes to rest for a bit!
Time to plate
I spoon some of the fregola into a plate and top it off with the scampi. How many you ask? As many as your heart desires! A good portion is 3 to 4 scoops of the fregola, however, depending on your eaters, you may need to put more. It's all good! More so, a little garnish is needed in my opinion. Do you know those fennel tops that look similar to dill? Yes, that makes for a good garnish, and so it is. The end result, a well-presented dish!
It is all about quality control. Furthermore, I better taste to make sure seasoning is good. Wow, that fregola is absolutely delicious. It has this nuttiness bathed in that rich fish broth, and more so that texture with a wonderful toothiness making it so pleasing to the palate! Let's taste the scampi. OMG, so juicy, sweet, plump, and succulent. I have to say, that seared fennel gives you these wonderful bursts of flavor, and it pairs so well with the scampi and fregola.
Moreover, that mandarin in the backdrop is so subtle and more so, delicious. It adds this joyfulness to the whole and sure balances well with all the other ingredients. I give this dish 2 definite thumbs up!
Tutti a Tavola a mangiare!
I can't believe that Christmas is just around the corner. This year has passed so quickly and it has been quite a year. In Italian, we say "Un anno pesante"! We can harp on all the negatives of the year, but I am not one to cry over spilled milk. I want to look at all the positives, and also still celebrate, because we are still alive and it sure sets the scale to balance.
This morning Nicoletta and I sat to a wonderful rustic plentiful breakfast. I was drinking my coffee and noticed that in my Buddha cup there were some very wise words of wisdom: "What you think you become", "What you feel you attract", "What you imagine you create". I really believe this because I have experienced it first hand.
Imagination is a powerful thing. This Christmas I am going to imagine all of you sitting down to a wonderful meal thinking, "we are so very lucky", "feeling very joyful, abundant, and peaceful", and of course enjoying this wonderful Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel! The rest my friends is up to you! lol.
Have a most joyous Christmas season, eat, laugh, dance, play, after all, living in the moment is such a beautiful way to live!