Fish and Seafood, Pasta, Pizza, Risotto

Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel

Loreto December 20, 2020

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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-plated-top view-blue napkin around

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!

Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel-ingredients on blue wood board

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
  • shallot
  • 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! 

Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel

Taste test

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!

Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel-plate and fork-frontal view

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!


Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel-feature-plate closeup

Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel

  • Author: Loreto and Nicoletta
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: serves 2 people 1x
  • Category: Main, Fish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean


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. A balanced, beautiful dish that would be a hit for the night before Christmas!


The Fregola:

  • 120 g Fregola Sarda
  • 2 Tbsp evo oil
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1/2 a fennel cut into a fine dice
  • Zest of 1 mandarin
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • The shells of the 6 scampi

The Scampi:

  • 6 scampi shells on
  • The juice of one mandarin orange
  • 1 Tbsp evo oil
  • Salt and pepper

Garnish (optional):

  • A few sprigs of fennel tops
  • a drizzle of olive oil



  1. Peel the shells off the scampi, leaving the tails on. Place in a bowl.
  2. Peel a mandarin and squeeze half of the pieces over the scampi, and place the rest of the mandarin in the bowl with the scampi. Cover with plastic wrap and into the fridge for an hour.


  1. Pour broth into a medium saucepan. Add the bay leaf, and also all the scampi shells. Stir and bring to a medium to low heat. Pour broth into another sauce pot through a sieve. This will give you a nice filtered broth. Leave on the stove on very low heat.


  1. In a medium sauté pan, drizzle in olive oil. Toss in diced fennel, season with salt and pepper, and bring to medium-high heat, tossing frequently until nice and golden on the edges.
  2. Take out of pan and place in a ramekin for later. Do not wash the pan, we are going to use this pan for the scampi.


  1. In a large medium-deep sauté pan drizzle in olive oil. Toss in minced shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about two minutes.
  2. Throw in fregola and stir. Toast for one minute.
  3. Begin by covering the fregola with a few ladles of broth. Continually stir until all the broth has dissipated a fair bit.
  4. Add another ladle of broth and stir again. Continue this for about 15-18 minutes or until the fregola has an al dente texture. Taste for seasoning and add if necessary.
  5. Turn off the heat and zest the mandarin into the fregola, furthermore,  toss in the seared diced fennel. Stir until well incorporated. Cover and let sit for a minute or two.


  1. While the fregola is at its last stage of cooking, take the pan you sautéed the fennel in and add some more olive oil. Place in the scampi, tails on, toss, and cook for one to two minutes. Turn off heat.


  1. Give the fregola a quick stir. Scoop some fregola onto a plate. Top with three scampi, drizzle with evo oil (optional), and top with some of the fennel tops.
  2. Ready to serve!



If you find the scampi whole with the head on, use the head and shells in the broth. Remember to leave the tails on and also to devein the scampi.

Double the recipe if it is more than two of you.

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Fregola Sarda with Scampi and Fennel-plate-fork in

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  • Avatar
    Reply Gloria December 21, 2020 at 10:42 am

    This sounds super delicious. I love the combination of seafood and pasta. I would eat this for dinner any night of the week. Perfect for entertaining with too.

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 26, 2020 at 7:17 am

      Thank you Gloria! It is such a wonderful meal the textures are lovely and flavor stupendous. I sure do hope you get to try it!
      Happy Holidays!

  • Avatar
    Reply Kathryn Donangelo December 23, 2020 at 7:59 am

    This seafood and pasta dish sounds delicious and I love al of the ingredients used! Can’t wait to make this for my husband!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 26, 2020 at 7:18 am

      Thank you Kathryn! Yes it is definiately a flavorful dish and so excited for you to try. It is prepared very similar to a risotto!
      Happy cooking!

  • Avatar
    Reply Amy Liu Dong December 24, 2020 at 10:41 pm

    First time to hear this recipe and it looks really delicious. I will try to make this to know that taste, saving your recipe. Thank you!

  • Loreto
    Reply Loreto December 26, 2020 at 7:20 am

    Thanks Amy. Yes the dish is from an island Sardegnia in Italy. If you love pasta and seafood, this dish checks those boxes in a most beautiful way!

  • Avatar
    Reply Jenny December 26, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    Beautiful dish. I actually served it as a first course for Christmas dinner, it was just my husband and I, and I wanted to make the whole dinner extra special this year. It was delicious! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I will make it again for sure. It was such a treat.

    • Loreto Nardelli
      Reply Loreto Nardelli January 5, 2021 at 12:45 pm

      Your so welcome Jenny. Thank you for trying it. It has become quite the favorite dish amongst many this year! So glad you enjoyed it!

  • Avatar
    Reply Farrukh Aziz December 27, 2020 at 3:14 am

    Pasta and seafood being my favorite, I tried this recipe and needless to say it turned out so good. Flavorful, perfect cooked, delicate hint of fennel and zest, a great dinner treat! Thank you very much for sharing this great recipe. 🙂

    • Loreto Nardelli
      Reply Loreto Nardelli January 5, 2021 at 12:47 pm

      You are so welcome. It makes us so happy that you tried this, even happier that you loved it. You did a great job a good pat on the back for you to! I absolutely love this dish! Glad it is a favorite of yours too now!
      Happy New Year!

  • Avatar
    Reply Beth December 27, 2020 at 6:55 am

    I have never cooked fregola before, so I am happy to encounter your tips for making sure it has just the right tenderness and flavor for this elegant seafood dish.

    • Loreto Nardelli
      Reply Loreto Nardelli January 5, 2021 at 12:48 pm

      Hi Beth, thank you! Travel is a wonderful thing especially for us foodies. It is nice to be able to taste the traditional recipes in their regions!
      Happy cooking!

  • Avatar
    Reply Adriana December 27, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    I visited Italy and this was one of teh dishes I tasted locally, what a delight! I am glad now I can make it at home following your instructions.

    • Loreto Nardelli
      Reply Loreto Nardelli January 5, 2021 at 12:50 pm

      That’s wonderful Adriana that you had the privilege to try this dish in its region. We are excited for you to try it at home. Send us a message with your thoughts and how it turned out!
      Happy New Year!

  • Avatar
    Reply Moop Brown December 27, 2020 at 5:14 pm

    This looks so tasty and delicious- I love the festive song paired with this dish!

    • Loreto Nardelli
      Reply Loreto Nardelli January 5, 2021 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks Moop, I am so glad you listened to the song of the day. We love music and food goes so well with a delightful song. You can’t have too much good energy going intro your food, or maybe you can!
      Happy cooking!

  • Avatar
    Reply Neha December 27, 2020 at 8:43 pm

    Wow Amy this looks absolutely brilliant! I am such a sucker for italian food and can’t wait to try this one out. Pinning right away.

    • Loreto Nardelli
      Reply Loreto Nardelli January 5, 2021 at 12:54 pm

      Thank you Neha, Yes Italian food has a way of delighting the heart and this dish is no exception. very excited for you to try. I think you are going to love the texture of the Fregola!

  • Avatar
    Reply Jo December 27, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    Seafood and pasta is simply best together. Love this scampi. The flavors and the texture looks so amazing!

  • Loreto Nardelli
    Reply Loreto Nardelli January 5, 2021 at 12:55 pm

    You are so right. It is like luxury meets peasantry in a most prestigious and delicious way. I have to tell you that scampi was so succulent and marinated with the mandarin out of this world good!
    Have a great day!

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