Spicy Calamari With Fregola
In Sardinia, rustic saucy fish stews are commonly served with fregola, simmered golden nuggets of toasted semolina, hearty and satisfying. A relative of couscous, fregola arrived by ship from nearby Tunisia, became popular and melded into the local cuisine long ago. The little round pellets are the size of a peppercorn, or a bit larger. When cooked, they have a pleasant, slightly chewy texture. Traditionally, fregola is used in vegetable soups as a way to add substance; prepared like a juicy risotto with the concentrated flavor of clams or other shellfish; or served as part of a room-temperature salad. Most Italian stores in the United States carry it, but you may substitute Israeli-style pearl couscous, which has a similar flavor.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 2pounds small to medium calamari, tubes and tentacles cleaned, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- Salt and pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 4anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
- 4small garlic cloves, minced
- 1large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- ⅛teaspoon crumbled saffron
- ½cup dry white wine
- 1cup diced canned tomato
- ¾cup chicken broth or water
- 1cup fregola sarda (add 1/2 cup for heartier appetites)
- 12basil leaves
- Pinch of dried oregano
Step 1Spread the calamari on a baking sheet and pat dry as best you can with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Step 2Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide skillet over high heat. Add calamari and quickly stir-fry, cooking for only 1 minute, until puffed. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and set aside.
Step 3Return pan to stove, reduce heat to medium-high and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add crushed red pepper, anchovy and garlic and let sizzle, then add onions and stir well.
Step 4Season onions generously and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened and faintly colored. Add saffron and wine and simmer for 1 minute, then add tomato and broth. Adjust heat so sauce simmers gently for about 10 minutes, until flavors are well mingled. Taste for salt and hot pepper.
Step 5Meanwhile, bring 4 cups salted water to a boil. Add fregola and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and keep warm.
Step 6Add par-cooked calamari to the sauce over high heat. Add basil leaves and stir well until everything is heated through and calamari are completely cooked, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a warm serving bowl and fold in cooked fregola. Sprinkle with oregano, add a drizzle of olive oil, if desired, and serve.