Fregola with Manila Clams


Last night we had a tasty dish of fregola (Sardinian couscous) with Manila clams. The attached recipe is from BBC television cook Nigella Lawson. The link below to the BBC site also has a helpful video of the recipe.

Lawson calls for tomato puree, which is actually a concentrated tomato paste. I used an imported one from Italy that comes in a tube. After adding it to the pan, I let it toast slightly while stirring it before I added the broth and the vermouth. I think toasting the paste makes for a deeper tomato flavor.

For the small clams called for in the recipe, I used the Manila variety, which I find have a delicious briny sweetness to them. Note that the clams may take a minute or two more to open than the 3 minutes called for in the recipe. Shaking the covered pan may help the clams to open.


This is a quick and easy to prepare dish for a weeknight meal.  And if you don’t have fregola in the cupboard, it’s worth a trip to your Italian specialty store or an online search to find some. Here’s a link to the BBC Recipe.


I paired the dish with a 2013 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare, a Rhone-style blend rosé. A crisp dry rosé, with hints of strawberry on the nose and an earthy minerality, it was the perfect complement to the briny fregola.

Wine Pairing: Dry Rosé, Dry Riesling, Pinot Grigio


Mussels Marinara


Tuesday is usually a fish day for us. So last night, I prepared Mussels Marinara. I’m not sure how I came up with this recipe, but over the years I’ve been tweaking it. The marinara sauce is based on that of my Neapolitan aunt, who would often prepare it for a weekday dinner’s first-course pasta. The process of steaming the mussels open in the sauce comes from many recipes I’ve used for preparing clams for pasta with olive oil, garlic, and parsley.

This is a relatively easy and quick dish to prepare; perfect for a weekday night.


2 pounds mussels, rinsed and debearded. (I use farmed mussels, which are easier to clean and require a minimum of debearding.)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
3 Tbs chopped parsley (1 for the sauce; 2 for finishing)
28 oz can of crushed Italian tomatoes
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tsp crushed red-pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1 tsp dried oregano (If you opt for more oregano, be careful not to overdo it, as too much oregano can overwhelm the taste of the mussels.)

1. Clean and debeard mussels, discarding any cracked or opened ones. I keep them in a bowl with cold water slowly running over them and then lift them up out of the water with a spider or small sieve.

2. In a large deep, 3 quart, sauté pan, over low heat add oil and garlic. Poach the garlic slowly for about 5 minutes until they become aromatic and before they take on any color.|

3. Add 1 Tbs of the parsley and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes more.

4. Add tomatoes and bring to simmer.

5. Add red-pepper flakes and oregano. Rub the oregano in your palms to release maximum flavor.

6. Add wine and simmer uncovered over medium low heat for 15 minutes.musstep2small

7. Add mussels to to the pan and stir coating them with the sauce.


8. Cover the pan tightly. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan, until the mussels have opened.

9. Transfer to a large bowl with the sauce, discarding any mussels that have not opened. Finish with the remaining parsley and, if desired, a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve, in warmed bowls, with thick slices of grilled or toasted Italian bread to sop up the sauce.

Wine Pairing:  A young Salento Rosso for a red; a Fiano di Avellino for a white.