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Fregola, Tomato, and Orange Salad with Tahini and Optional Sardines

Fregola, Tomato, and Orange Salad with Tahini and Optional Sardines

Renée Robinson

In the Mood for a Different Take on Pasta Salad?

Before I get started discussing the details of this dish, I want to explain why the sardines are only optional. This recipe was originally supposed to be a side dish. As I was making it, other matters continually interrupted me until I was left staring at this completed salad, but with no time left to make anything else. That’s where the sardines came into play. They turned this into a complete meal. While we love sardines, I understand there are those who do not, and this salad is delicious without them. But if you’re so inclined, I highly recommend you add them because they happen to be great in this recipe.

I began by using fregola as the base for the salad. If you’ve never eaten it, fregola or fregula, a pasta that comes from Sardinia, is shaped into little balls and is then toasted. It has a lightly toasted flavor that I like a lot. After cooking it in a big pot of salted water, draining it and spreading it out to cool I went to work on the dressing for the pasta.


Besides coriander and cumin seeds, I used anardana seeds, which have a bright, tart, and sweet flavor. Once again, I used calamansi vinegar because its citrusy sweet flavor would be welcome with the other salad ingredients. I also added a small amount of toasted sesame oil because it enhanced the toasted flavor of the fregola. I mixed it all up with the pasta and continued with the rest of the recipe.

I decided a little creaminess would be welcome and continued with the sesame flavor by whisking up a very simple tahini sauce. I only used tahini, lime juice, salt, and the residual juices from the oranges as I cut them up. The sauce had depth of flavor from the tahini and sweetness and floral flavors from the citrus juices.

After that it was only a matter of spreading the fregola onto a platter, topping it with the tomatoes, oranges, and sliced onion, a little salt, drizzling it with the tahini sauce and some olive oil, and adding the black sesame seeds and parsley leaves. It was at this point I decided to add the optional sardines. Dinner was served and it was most delicious.

Fregola, Tomato, and Orange Salad with Tahini and Optional Sardines

Recipe by Renée Robinson



A Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Oranges, Tahini Sauce, and Optional Sardines.

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  • 250 g toasted fregola

  • handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish

  • 3 cara cara oranges, peeled and cut into segments (supremes)

  • 1 navel orange, peeled and cut into segments (supremes)

  • 500 grams tomatoes, mix of Campari, cut into quarters and grape tomatoes, cut in half

  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced

  • 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

  • kosher salt

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • 4 ounce tin of sardines, drained, optional

  • Dressing Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 small garlic clove, grated

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely ground

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground

  • 2 teaspoons anardana seeds, toasted and coarsely ground

  • 2 teaspoons lime zest, finely grated

  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

  • 1 tablespoon calamansi vinegar

  • 1 t. Aleppo pepper

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt

  • few drops of hot sauce

  • several grinds of black pepper

  • Tahini Sauce Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup tahini

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

  • juice squeezed from the orange membranes after they are sliced


  • Cook the fregola in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente - 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and spread on a sheet pan in order to cool.
  • Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a medium bowl. Add cooled fregola. Mix well and stir in the chopped parsley.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredient for the tahini sauce. The sauce will be very thick, but will smooth out after you add the juice from the oranges. After slicing the oranges into supremes, hold your hand over the bowl of tahini sauce and squeeze all the juice from the membranes into the bowl. Drain any juice from the sliced supremes into the bowl of tahini sauce and whisk until smooth.
  • Spread the fregola onto a large platter. Top with the tomatoes, sliced onion, and oranges. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Drizzle a little tahini sauce and olive oil over the top and sprinkle with black sesame seeds. Add the sardines and serve with the remaining tahini sauce. Enjoy!

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