Mussels with Fregola and Pesto

INGREDIENTS:

(Serves 4 to 6)

  • 1 cup fregola or Israeli couscous
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus a little extra for the fregola
  • 2 pounds cultivated mussels, well rinsed and scrubbed
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon slivered basil
  • 6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • ½ cup best-quality store-bought pesto from the refrigerator section
  • ½ teaspoon kosher section
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, shaved with a vegetable peeler

METHOD:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fregola and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Drain well in a colander and toss with a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.
  • Warm 1/3 cup of the olive oil in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-low heat.
  • Add the mussels, garlic, oregano, and red-pepper flakes. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the garlic is softened and fragrant.
  • Add the white wine and half the parsley, dill and basil. Cover the pan and cook, shaking it every minute or so to distribute the mussels in the pan so that they cook evenly.
  • When the mussel shells have opened (about 6 minutes), remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, fregola, pesto, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and remaining parsley, dill, and basil.
  • Cover the pan and shake again to distribute all the ingredients evenly.
  • Discard any mussels that have not opened. It means they are not good!
  • To serve, ladle into large bowls with plenty of the broth and fregola and garnish with the ricotta salata.

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