Lidia's Baked Fregola Casserole
Fregola is not a well-known pasta outside of Italy. Lidia Bastianich does a great service by facilitating this delightful recipe of baked fregola.
Servings: 4 servings
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for the baking dish
- 1 cup onion chopped
- 4 ounces pancetta cut in 1/4-inch dice
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon peperoncino flakes
- 8 ounces fregola
- ½ cup pecorino grated
Pour the olive oil into a skillet, and set it over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes. Scatter the diced pancetta in the pan, and let it cook and render its fat, stirring occasionally until it starts to brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Drop in cherry tomatoes and bay leaves, season with the salt and peperoncino, and pour in 1/2 cup water.
Cover the skillet, bring the water to a simmer, then set the cover slightly ajar and cook just until the water evaporates and the tomatoes pop open and release their juices, about 10 minutes. (If the pan dries before the tomatoes pop, add another 1/4 cup water.) Turn off the heat; remove and discard the bay leaves.
Meanwhile, heat 4 quarts of water with 2 teaspoons salt to a rolling boil in a pasta pot. Stir in the fregola, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Empty the pot into a colander or large strainer to catch the fregola. Spill them into the skillet, and stir the pasta, tomatoes, and pancetta together until thoroughly blended. Pick out and discard the bay leaves. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, and brush the bottom and sides of a baking dish with olive oil. Pour all the sauced fregola into the dish, and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top, and set the dish in the oven.
Bake, uncovered, 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and crisp on the edges. Serve piping hot. Spoon the fregola into warm bowls as an appetizer, or, to serve family-style, put the baking dish on the table.