When I think about this dish, I smell the sea on a beautiful summer evening in the island of Sardinia.
Fregola is a Sardinian pasta similar to couscous, but with a rougher texture. It is lightly toasted, giving it a nutty flavor. The pasta is formed into small round balls about the size of Israeli couscous, and is used in pasta salads, pilafs, soups, and stews.
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 large plum tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup fregola
2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Stir in the fregola, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 17 minutes.
Add the clams to the skillet in a single layer. Cover and cook over moderately high heat until the clams open, about 4 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. Season the fregola with salt and pepper. Spoon the fregola, clams and broth into shallow bowls. Serve at once.