Sardo the Sailorman's Favorite Minestra

May 21, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Know where Sardegna is? It’s an island. It’s part of Italy but don’t tell that to the Sards. They have their own language and their own customs and a pretty good football team in Cagliari. This “minestrone” is inspired by the cooking of this island. There they would most typically use chickpeas but I’m using smaller legumes; small white beans and yellow peas to complement the pasta component, that being fregola. Allow yourself a day and a night to make it, but what the hell else are you doing that’s more important? Looking after the goats? Fregola is a sardegnan pasta similar to couscous to which it is related. You can find it in either large or small grains. If you can’t find fregola, don’t give up. You can substitute another small grain or cut pasta shape.
Another note; I first published this recipe three years ago and writing under deadline I screwed up a few details. I think those are now fixed. —pierino

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup small white beans, smaller the better
  • 1/2 cup split yellow peas
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced paper thin, hold back the fronds
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon Black peppercorns
  • 5 sage leaves (or more)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fregola grassa
  • Pecorino sardo
  1. The night before you plan to serve, rinse the white beans and allow them to soak overnight in good water (you will be saving the water)
  2. On the morrow bring the white beans up to a simmer with a bay leaf and some whole peppercorns and cook slowly for about 1 hour
  3. In a separate pot cover your yellow peas with water and simmer for 30 minutes
  4. Chop the onion and garlic
  5. Peel the tomatoes and quarter, and slice the fennel (saving the fronds); a mandolin works great for the fennel portion of the program
  6. In a large heavy pot, heat up enough olive oil to coat the bottom and color the onion and garlic, followed by the fennel. Followed by the tomato. Add the beans and peas and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover. If you’ve saved the water in which you parboiled your legumes you can use that.
  7. After about ½ hour of steady simmer add the fregola and continue to simmer. This could take awhile until it gets to “soupe” so be patient and don’t rush.
  8. Chop up the sage and the fennel fronds and hold until your soup gets close to finish.
  9. Grate the pecorino cheese.
  10. Does it look like soup? Add the sage and fennel and continue to simmer.
  11. When ready to serve, add the soup to individual bowls and grate pecorino cheese over each portion. Drizzle with a really good olive oil and serve.
  12. Notes to cook: I'm actually preparing this now to beat deadline. With this quantity of legume (beans) I think you should be ready to salt aggressively toward the end. Up to you. Also, this soup will be still better tomorrow. You can turn it into a ribollita by whisking in some day old bread and more cheese.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Fran McGinty
    Fran McGinty
  • pierino
  • drbabs
  • Brenna
  • dymnyno
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.

9 Reviews

Fran M. March 6, 2011
Thank you for posting this recipe. It is fantastic. I lived in Sardinia for 2 years and loved everything I was lucky to eat there. My land lord Mario Badi made the best pesto ever. He would never share his recipes. So Bravo for sharing.
pierino May 23, 2010
By way of apology, you can now look up my breakfast recipe for smoked salmon and avocado which does include CAPERS. Among the tags, "unsavory", and its title "Shut Up and Eat Your Capers..." It's all the result of plane brain. You get on a plane and...;
drbabs May 23, 2010
My husband (the one who hates capers) loves soup with small beans, peas and pasta--I'm looking forward to making this one.
pierino May 23, 2010
Could I just say right now that this is the worst job of recipe writing I could have possibly attempted. No excuses. Just down right sloppy. I was running from cooktop to laptop with simmering soup going on and watching the clock tick down. Where it seems to call for another cup of split peas it should read, "1 red onion, chopped". Now maybe it will make sense. Because when I looked at it didn't, and it didn't to several readers. Thank you for your patience.
Also, I'm working on a recipe for no contest but just to have in the arsenal called, "shut up and eat your capersl".
drbabs May 23, 2010
LOL! No worries--the great thing about soup is how flexible it is--I love the addition of red onions!
Brenna May 22, 2010
Also, you forgot to add that we need an onion in your ingredient list but you did mention it in the procedure. In other news, what I love about this recipe is that it stays true to vegetarian lightness, and round pasta is basically the king of all pasta. Except for spaghetti, of course.
pierino May 23, 2010
Yes, Ma'am. This is where cutting, pasting and tasting can go wrong. And it did sort of...just keep Ted Allen out of my face while I'm cooking.
The cooking outcome was good, the recipe description was a mess. Don't try this at home.
dymnyno May 22, 2010
Am I assuming correctly that the yellow and green peas are the packaged dried kind?
pierino May 22, 2010
Yes. And, sorry, too late to edit, but that should not read an additional cup of split peas after the yellow ones. For some reason I couldn't access the recipe after I posted it minutes before deadline so I couldn't change anything. No green peas at all. I used small white beans, split yellow peas and fregola so that those components would all be about the same size per mouthful, but each with its own flavor and texture.