Fregola Sarda with Peas, Zucchini, Feta, and Almonds

This is a great dish that you can make in advance and keep on hand for an easy lunch, potluck, or picnic. Keep some lemons on hand to drizzle over the salad if serving it later, as well as some more olive oil as both tend to get absorbed by the pasta. As I wrote in the write-up above, you can swap in Israeli couscous (which you can opt to toast, if you like) should fregola sarda prove hard to find. However, if you’re willing to go the extra mile and procure it, it’s totally worth the extra effort! It should go without saying, but the herbs and vegetables are totally optional. Hate peas but love favas? Not a fan of dill but prefer a cool hint of mint (oops, I didn’t mean to rhyme that)? Or both dill AND mint together? Do whatever you want – make this salad truly yours!

2 cups (10 ounces; 284 grams) shelled peas (10 ounces)
1 medium zucchini (8 ounces; 227 grams), chopped
Kosher salt
1 pound (about 500 grams) fregola sarda or Israeli couscous
Grapeseed oil
4 ounces (113 grams) feta, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil and blanch the peas for 90 seconds. Drain (reserving the water) and transfer the peas to an ice bath. Let cool and drain. Set aside. Chop the zucchini and transfer it to a strainer set over a bowl. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and mix to combine. Let the zucchini juice drain into the bowl. Set aside.

2. Return the reserved water back in the pot and bring to a boil again, add the fregola sarda (or the couscous – for that you will need to measure water according to the instructions) and cook according to the packaging instructions, or until al dente. With fregola sarda, it took about 7 minutes. Taste regularly to determine doneness. Drain the pasta (or if using couscous, cook until water has been absorbed) and set aside, allowing it to cool to room temperature.

3. While your pasta cools, heat a medium pan over high heat for 3 minutes. Add the grape seed oil and heat it another minute until almost smoking. Add the drained zucchini and let cook in a single layer, without moving, for 3 minutes or until the bottom is medium-brown. Stir and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl to cool.

4. Once zucchini is cool, add the cooled pasta, peas, dill, almonds, and feta. Toss to combine. Add the feta, dill, almonds, lemon zest and juice, and enough olive oil that you can taste its flavor in your salad. I add between 1/4 and 1/3 cup depending on the type of oil I am using and how intensely flavored it is. At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong here. You can add less or more oil depending on your preference. Taste and season with salt and pepper according to taste. Because you blanch the peas in salted water, cook the pasta in the same salted water, and use feta, you want to avoid adding salt until the very end.

Serves 6

© 2020 Olga Massov