Lisa emailed to ask me where she can buy fregola pasta. I wondered why on earth an Italian would ask me that. It turns out that even her father didn’t know what it was. She couldn’t find it in her supermarket either. Fregola is a North African pasta used often today in Sardinia. It’s made with semolina and then rubbed to form small pellets and then toasted. It’s crumbly, almost like couscous. After I called Di Palo’s and confirmed that they had the pasta in stock, I sent Lisa to pick up a box before they closed.
I was intrigued that she needed the exact pasta, so I did some research and looked for a substitute. Orzo, and even couscous, were suggested. I have both at home but I decided to go for the orzo. My mother has plenty of grapefruit and oranges she uses as our coffee table centerpiece, so I ended up stealing a few to give the orzo a summery taste. The fennel was a bit of a surprise here–it gave a toasted smell and taste. You can make this meatier if you add some half-cooked peeled shrimps.
2 1/2 cups of orzo
zest of that same orange
half of a pink grapefruit
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 stalks of scallion, white parts only, chopped
a handful fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
a pinch of fennel seeds, lightly toasted, grounded
salt, pepper, olive oil
1. Make orange oil for dressing. Soak the orange zest in some olive oil using a small bowl. Set aside.
2. In a pot, bring the chicken broth to boil. Add orzo pasta and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and remove to a baking sheet. Spread to a single layer to avoid sticking and clumping.
3. In the meantime, cut the skin off the orange and the grapefruit, and slice flesh into smaller pieces over a serving bowl to catch the juice. Add the onion, scallions and the orzo. Toss with the mint, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Drizzle with orange oil before serving.