This was inspired by what might have been an epic failure when I tried to make Mario Batali's 2-Minute Calamari, Sicilian Lifeguard Style. I forgot to pre-cook the couscous and had to spend 30 minutes stirring in extra water while my dinner guests twiddled their thumbs at the table. I became smitten with cooking couscous or fregola like a risotto. I vary this recipe with calamari or seared tuna and sometimes white beans if I'm cooking for vegetarians. The sugar might seem a little unconventional, but it helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes. —student epicure
Before you do anything else, add boiling water to the fregola and let stand.
Place mussels in large pot with the lid on and heat over medium heat. Steam the mussels until cooked, about 8 minutes. You don't need to add water to the mussels, as they will release their own liquid. Once mussels are cooked, cool and remove from shells. Save any liquid from the bottom of the pot.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add garlic and chili flakes, stirring until fragrant. Add anchovies and stir until fillets have dissolved. Add tomatoes and sugar and stir until mixture begins to simmer. Season with pepper.
Drain fregola and add to skillet. Add any remaining mussel juice, 1/3 a cup at a time, being careful to not add any grit. After each addition, stir until all liquid has been absorbed before adding any more. I needed about 1 1/3 cup liquid. When mussel juice runs out, just use warm water. Cook until fregola is done, but still al dente. It's very important to taste test along the way!
Stir in mussels, coating them in sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve very hot from the stove.