The thing I love about cooking, as opposed to baking, is the way that you can take just about any recipe and adapt it to suit your tastes or the ingredients you have on hand without necessarily sacrificing anything in the way of the quality of the dish. Baking on the other hand is a precise science, and disaster lurks in the wings for those novices who dare to tinker with the recipe.
Today's recipe is a great example of being able to adapt and still come up with a great dish. I would not for a moment suggest that my adaptation is an improvement. After all, the original came from the book Molto Italiano by Mario Batali, the orange-clogged "God" of all things Italian, and I'm pretty sure his word cannot be bettered. Still, I like to think that my interpretation of his Fregola Soup with Clams turned out to be a pretty good dish.
So this is the way it went down. Having half a bag of fregola languishing in my pantry, I had decided a couple of days ago that I was going to make this dish today for my contribution to this week's Cookbook Sundays. Trouble is, I forgot to check the recipe before I went out this morning to do my shopping. I knew I had to get clams, but not finding any available today, I opted for some shrimp which I thought would make a good substitute. Since I keep a fairly well stocked pantry, I thought that I would have pretty much everything else necessary on hand. Turns out I was wrong. For starters, I didn't have a red onion, but there were a few spring onions in my vege crisper and I knew that I could get away with finely slicing just the white part of them - of course, a shallot or two would also make a reasonable substitute. The recipe also called for some prosciutto, which was conspicuously absent from my fridge, but I did have some chorizo sausage, which was a great alternative and paired really well with the shrimp. I was also missing some basic tomato marinara sauce, but I had some really good hot, roasted pepper sauce that I have been loving lately, so subbed that in instead. Also, as I am only one person, I halved the original recipe (intended to serve 4 people) to create two very generous servings, which means that tomorrow night's dinner is already sorted!
All things considered, all though I changed the dish quite significantly, I was really pleased with the end result. The earthy flavour of the saffron which comes through in the broth is both comforting and a great foil to the brininess of the shrimp - I can imagine that this would be amplified if you used clams here as they have even more of that briny quality than the shrimp. This definitely works as comfort food, but it also has an elegance about it, and I would not hesitate to serve it to company.
Fregola Soup with Shrimps & Chorizo
Adapted from recipe by Mario Batali from
Makes 2 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
250g (1/2 lb) fregula (see note below)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 spring onions, white part only, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
125g (4.5 oz) chorizo sausage
250g (1/2 lb) peeled shrimp
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
pinch saffron threads
1/4 cup basic marinara sauce*
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes*
(*I used a hot, roasted red pepper sauce as a substitute for both of these ingredients)
large handful flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Note: Fregola is the Sardegna version of couscous. It is not that easy to find here in New Zealand, but you will come across it in gourmet specialty stores such as Mercato, Zarbo, Farro, Sabato or Nosh. It does have a fairly hefty price tag, so if that's not in your budget you could substitute Israeli couscous (mograbieh). Mind you, that too can be pricey, so if that is still not in your budget go and check out this post from Mika at milliemirepoix for a more budget friendly Palestinian couscous.
Set a large pan of water over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. Salt the water very liberally, then add the fregola and cook according to the package directions - could take anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, set a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, and once the oil is hot add the chorizo sausage. Saute until the chorizo is just starting to brown, then add the spring onions and garlic. Continue to saute until the onion has softened and the garlic is fragrant.
Add the shrimps, wine, stock, saffron and roasted red pepper sauce. Bring to the boil.
Drain the cooked fregola, add it to the pan, and cook until the shrimp is pink and you have reached the consistency of a soupy risotto.
Stir in the parsley and serve in warm bowls.
Earlier I mentioned Cookbook Sundays. What is that all about, you are perhaps wondering. Well, if you're anything like me you have dozens of cookbooks gathering dust on your bookshelves, some of which have never even been cooked from. Sure I spent hours browsing through them when I first bought them, marking all the recipes I was going to make with little post-it notes, and yet still those books languish in the bookcase and never make it to the kitchen. There are others from which I have made but one recipe which was such a resounding success that I've made it over and over again, and yet somehow I've never made anything else from that book. Sound a bit familiar?!
Take comfort - you are not alone, and now Cookbook Sundays is your opportunity to change that. Every Sunday I'm going to share with you a recipe that I haven't made before from one of my ever expanding collection of cookbooks. And, because I know that if you have read this far then you are guilty of this too, I'm inviting you to join in with me. Each week my Cookbook Sundays post will have a linky for you to share something you've cooked from one of your cookbooks.
The rules for joining in are simple:
- Your post must state the author and the title of the book your recipe has come from.
- Your post must mention Cookbook Sundays and link back to this post. Including the Cookbook Sundays badge is optional, but always appreciated.
- You may submit as many entries as you like, and you may use the same cookbook as many times as you like. Old posts are also welcome.
- Lastly, remember that what goes around, comes around - one of the reasons you are participating in this is because you want people to read your posts, so do the right thing and go and visit a few of the other participants.
Now, go and dust off those cookbooks and get cooking! Use the linky tool at the end of this post to submit your entry/entries - simply scroll down to where it says "You are next ... Click here to enter", and then follow the instructions. The linky will be open for one week.
Lastly, if you would like to use the Cookbook Sundays badge in your post, simply copy the code in the box beside the badge below and paste it into your post. Feel free to also use it in your sidebar if you wish.