Chicken Soup with Fregola

By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: December 30, 2019

Last Updated: February 25th, 20242 Comments on Chicken Soup with Fregola

For a warming, filling and flavour-filled Italian soup, this recipe is Italy’s version of Chicken Noodle Soup. Fregola are tiny balls of pasta, and an ingenious way of making more out an already delicious meaty chicken soup.

A bowl of chicken soup with fregola pasta and a spoon. Garnished with fresh herbs.

This Chicken Soup with Fregola was something I ate when I visited Italy. I stayed in the Abruzzo region - known for, amongst other culinary delights, spectacular pasta products. I'd never eaten a soup quite like it, and I'd never before experienced it's most alluring ingredient - Fregola. After a long day trekking around the Majella National Park, a big bowl of soup was a very welcome sight at our tiny Agroturismo restaurant.

It stayed with me for years, and has become a winter staple at home. My simple recipe is tried and tested and creates the most delicious meaty and 'chickeny' soup! The fregola only add more texture and flavour and transform the already delicious soup into something altogether more hearty and filling. This soup is on the stove at least twice during the colder months, ready for anyone who drops in to say hi. I think friends and family have cottoned on to this as it's a steady stream of guests once the word has gotten out.

Good news is that this fregola soup is really very easy to make at home too. So, let's get to it.

Chicken Soup with Fregola

What is Fregola?

Fregola are tiny balls of durum wheat pasta that have been hand-rolled and then baked. They're cooked, in water, like pasta and used with sauces and in soups and salads. They resemble Israeli/pearl cous-cous in size and shape, but a little coarser. They're a great way to add texture and bulk to dishes. Of all the fregola recipes out there this chicken soup is my favourite.

Did you know? Fregola, originating from the island of Sardinia, Italy, has a rich historical legacy dating back centuries. Its creation is believed to have been influenced by Arab culinary traditions introduced to the region during medieval times.

Why this soup works?

Well, the reason I love this soup so much is that it feels like a whole meal and not just a soupy snack. The fregola help bulk out the soup and create an altogether more filling experience. One or two bowls of this and you often need a little nap afterwards.

Chicken Soup with Fregola

Stuff You'll Need

There's not a lot to this soup to be honest. It's classic in the sense that there are no extraneous ingredients. Let the flavour of the chicken sing and that's about it.

  • Chicken thighs - I have opted for chicken thighs for this soup as the meat is juicier. Chicken breast often ends up a little stringy and dry when cooked for a longer time.
  • Aromatics - Onion, celery, red pepper, garlic - will add the savoury backbone to the soup.
  • Herbs - a little oregano and parsley add a floral fragrance.
  • Fregola sarda - the star ingredient, brings it's wonderful lightly chewy texture to the soup.
  • Fresh cream - I like to add a little at the end for a creamy texture, but this is optional.

Step by Step

Introductory sentence + process shots

  1. Step 1 - Heat olive oil in a large pan over moderate heat until it shimmers. Brown chicken thighs on all sides, approximately 5 minutes, then remove from the pan.
  2. Step 2 - Sauté the onion, celery, red pepper, and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Step 3 - Return the chicken to pan with chopped parsley (both stalks and leaves) and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in 1.5 litres/about 1.5 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour until chicken is tender.
  4. Step 4 - Remove the chicken and it let cool. Add the fregola to soup and cook according to package instructions, minus 1 minute.
  5. Step 5 - Shred the chicken and return to soup. Discard the bones. Stir in the cream (if using) and simmer for 2 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Chicken Soup with Fregola

Pro Tips

You can cover and let sit for 30 minutes for fregola to absorb more liquid if you like for a nice texture. However long you leave it, the fregola will continue to absorb. If you've left it overnight, top up the liquid a little with either water or a light chicken stock/broth.

Chicken Soup with Fregola

Ready to get cooking?

The fregola acts as another taste and textural component to the soup. The soup itself is beautifully flavoured and has a wonderful, rich chicken taste. It's one of those soups that keeps giving which will leave you intensely satisfied and warm. It doesn't even need bread, due to the plump soup-soaked fregola. It's the perfect winter soup, but a winner all year round for sure. Hope you enjoy!

A bowl of chicken soup with fregola pasta and a spoon. Garnished with fresh herbs.

Any Questions? (FAQ)

Have a question about Fregola? Let me know in the comments.

What is fregola?

Fregola is a type of Sardinian pasta, resembling small, toasted balls of dough. It is traditionally made from semolina flour, water, and sometimes saffron, resulting in a nutty flavour and slightly chewy texture.

Is fregola a pasta or a grain?

Fregola is classified as a type of pasta. Originating from Sardinia, Italy, it distinguishes itself with its unique shape resembling small, toasted balls of dough. Despite its pasta classification, fregola possesses a distinct character, setting it apart from other pasta varieties due to its shape and texture.

What does fregola taste like?

Fregola boasts a delightful nutty flavour profile, owing to its traditional preparation method which involves toasting the semolina flour before shaping it into small balls. This toasting process imbues fregola with a rich, aromatic quality, enhancing its overall taste. Additionally, its texture is slightly chewy, providing a satisfying mouthfeel that complements various sauces and dishes beautifully.

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A bowl of chicken soup with fregola pasta and a spoon. Garnished with fresh herbs.

Chicken Soup with Fregola

Rate this recipe

3.63 from 8 votes
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Recipe by Lee
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 40 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 4
Calories (per serving) | 511

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (peeled and diced)
  • 1 stick celery (diced)
  • 1 red pepper (capsicum), diced
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano
  • 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 cup fregola sarda
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh cream

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan until hot over a moderate heat until hot. Add the chicken thighs and fry them until all the sides have browned, around 5 minutes. Remove from the pan.
  • Add the onion, celery, red pepper and garlic for about 5 minutes until soft.
  • Return the chicken to the pan along with about 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley (stalks and leaves) and the oregano. Season with about 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and some black pepper. And pour over about 1.5 litres of water. Bring the soup to boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently for 1 hour, until the chicken is tender.
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and leave to cool. Add the fregola to the soup and cook according to the packet instructions, minus 1 minute.
  • Using your fingers or two forks, shred the chicken from the bone and add to the soup. Discard the bones. Pour in the cream and simmer for 2 minutes, before removing from the heat. Check for seasoning and that's it! I like to pop on the lid and leave for 30 minutes for the fregola to swell up and absorb more liquid before eating, but it's good to go if you haven't got the time or stamina to wait. When you're good to go, sprinkle with a little more chopped parsley and if you have some, a sprinkling of Parmigiana Reggiano cheese is just the ticket!

Nutrition

Calories: 511kcal (26%) | Carbohydrates: 40g (13%) | Protein: 16g (32%) | Fat: 32g (49%) | Saturated Fat: 11g (69%) | Cholesterol: 96mg (32%) | Sodium: 69mg (3%) | Potassium: 382mg (11%) | Fiber: 3g (13%) | Sugar: 4g (4%) | Vitamin A: 1500IU (30%) | Vitamin C: 41mg (50%) | Calcium: 66mg (7%) | Iron: 2mg (11%)
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