This most enjoyable combination of flavors is not only delicious, and that it is, but it can be served as either a salad or as a warm side dish. The Goddess loves the duality of this delightfully, deliriously delicious dish. Apparently, she also loves alliteration. But, really who doesn’t? I have two words for you…fregola sarda. If you aren’t familiar with fregola sarda, get some and become familiar with it. It’s a southern Sardinian pasta, formed into little orbs similar to Israeli couscous, and then toasted. You can use Israeli couscous instead, but the fregola is just more interesting and has far more flavor. It is available in various sizes; I use a medium-sized orb for this mixture. The Sardinians typically simmer fregola in a tomato-based sauce with clams. It too, is gorgeous and gloriously good. Check out a recipe here and here, for Fregola con Vongole.
The basis of this dish is a recipe from David Lebovitz’s book, My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories. I loved the flavor combination, which has a decidedly Middle Eastern-North African slant. He serves this immediately after preparation, while slightly warm, but I much prefer this made the day before and either eaten at cool room temperature or rewarmed until not quite hot, but hotter than “warm”. Does The Goddess sound like she doesn’t have her wooden spoon in the sauce pot? Warm pasta salad? If you think about a pasta-type salad for a moment, why can’t it be served warm? Really, why not?
Lemon-Pistachio Pasta Duet
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (I use grapefruit mint or orange mint)
- 2 tablespoons very thinly sliced garlic scapes (omit if not in season)
- 3 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives (omit if scapes are in season)
- 2 thinly sliced scallion, including some of the green tops
- 2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil*
- 1/2 cup total diced dried cherries, cranberries, apricots, dates and currants
- 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios meats, toasted and barely chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Zest of 1 lemon, removed with a peeler and julienned
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon (add more if you wish)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup fregola sarda or Israeli couscous (see NOTE)
- Freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, combine the parsley, mint, scapes, if using, red onion, dried fruit, pistachios, salt, lemon zest, juice and cinnamon.
Bring a pot of heavily salted water (seawater salty) to a boil over high heat. Add the fregola or couscous; stir briefly. Cook until al dente, about 9-10 minutes for fregola and 6-8 minutes for the couscous. Check about 2/3 of the way through cooking in either case. Do not over cook. Rinse briefly (I know, heresy!), if using for a salad; drain well. Add the pasta to the bowl of fruits and nuts.
*If you are planning on serving this immediately, stir in the butter until it is melted and all the ingredients are well mixed. Season with black pepper and serve immediately. If you are planning on serving this as a salad, stir in the olive oil and toss all the ingredients are well mixed. Season with black pepper. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. Taste and correct the seasoning; the “salad” may require a bit more salt and lemon juice.
NOTE: Fregola sarda is basically toasted Israeli couscous; I prefer it for this dish. It is luscious in salads, as well as side dishes. If you are unable to find fregola, use the Israeli couscous. If using peppermint of spearmint, use only a couple of tablespoons, as they have a more pungent flavor.
Lemon-Pistachio Pasta Duet Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
I do rinse the pasta briefly, if using for a salad. If serving immediately, it isn’t necessary.
I have made this with dried cherries and apricots alone and it was delicious, but I do prefer the combination given. But, use 1 or several dried fruits, if you prefer. Also, I probably use more than the 1/2 cup given, closer to 2/3 cup.
I used garlic scapes, which I don’t normally have access to, but it is the time of year and they are soooo delicious. Use them if you have them; use chives if you don’t. I don’t add garlic to this unless I’m using the scapes. I did try it, but it sort of took over and the entire dish suffered. However, I suspect if one used about 1/2 teaspoon of the oil from the garlic confit as part of the oil, that may work better.
This is a perfect side dish to serve with grilled salmon. Not only is it beautiful, but the flavors play off each other brilliantly. Therefore, if you haven’t tried this pasta, do so. It is frequently, fervently, fabulous fregola!