A few months ago, I came across an unusual pasta shape which I hadn’t run into previously. It’s called Fregola Sarda and consists of tiny solid balls of pasta that have been toasted. Their size is difficult to compare, since I can’t think of anything comparable; others have described it as “couscous on steroids”, but I think it is far from a good description.
Fregola Sarda has a complex flavor, due largely to the toasting process. It’s absolutely delicious even with a minimalist treatment of butter and garlic. Because of its large surface area it also tends to really suck up sauce, making each mouthful very tasty. Even following the package instructions and cooking to the max of 17 minutes, it’s still very al dente, and I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking it as much as 20 minutes to suit my wife’s preference for a softer pasta. Nevertheless, even at 20 minutes, it’s still pretty chewy (in a pleasant way).
I use the Rustichella d’Abruzzo line of artisanal pastas. It’s not cheap at around 8 bucks for 500 grams, but it does go a lot farther than regular pasta. A half-bag will easily serve 3-4 for a meal.