Italian Couscous Recipe

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The best Pearl Italian Couscous recipe with burst tomatoes, garlic and herbs brightened up with a squeeze of fresh lemon. It’s the perfect everyday meal that can be enjoyed warm and creamy like a risotto or fluffed up and served cold as a salad with lots of vegetables.

Pearl Italian Couscous

Italian Couscous (aka Pearl Couscous)

Cooking couscous has been a part of Italian culture for a long time, so much so the there’s even a festival dedicated to it. This Sardinian pearl pasta also called Fregola tostata or Succu is made from durum wheat semolina and traditionally rolled by hand into little pearls. These are then toasted to achieve a nutty and toasty flavor before being cooked perfectly al dente with a delightful chewiness.

It’s the same pasta shape traditionally used in Italian Wedding Soup and my favorite to throw in a big pot of comforting Pasta e Ceci or to stuff some peppers.

Fregola and Heirloom Tomatoes

About the Ingredients

  • The Tomatoes – Go for sweet cherry tomatoes or juicy heirlooms while in season. These will burst into the most delicious sauce! Stay away from grape tomatoes which are on the drier side with tough skins and very little juice.
  • Italian Couscous / Fregola – This Sardinian pasta can be found in some grocery stores or you can order it online. Giant pearl Israeli couscous can be used in its place.
  • Garlic – Smash a few large garlic cloves just enough to release their aroma. Remove from paper and toss them in the pan with the tomatoes but make sure to remove them after roasting. Their aroma will have infused the tomatoes perfectly and that’s all we are after.
  • Herbs – A mix of fresh thyme sprigs and just a little rosemary for depth of flavor will infuse this sauce with the most delicious herbaceous aroma.
  • Lemon – I love brightening up the burst tomato sauce once removed from the oven. It helps infuse new life into dish with a lemony layer but ultimately it’s a matter of preference, you can skip it if you want.
  • Olive Oil – Just a little bit adds richness to the sauce but for a healthier alternative it’s perfectly fine to omit it and make the recipe oil-free.

Mediterranean Pearl Couscous Recipe

Recipe Tips + FAQs

  • What’s the difference between Italian and Israeli couscous aka Ptitim? – Even though very similar, fregula sarda is a little bit larger in size that Ptitim and traditionally hand rolled into pearls not made with a pasta machine and takes longer to cook yielding a chewier bite.
  • Couscous to water ratio? – Unlike the tiny Moroccan variety, pearl couscous is much larger and needs to be boiled just like any other pasta shape in plenty of salted water.
  • Is couscous gluten free? – Although the traditional Sardinian Fregula I used in this recipe is made from durum wheat semolina and contains gluten, you can certainly find a variety that is gluten free like the Martino brand.
  • Couscous vs Quinoa vs Rice – Technically we have pasta vs quinoa seeds vs grains. Both quinoa and rice are naturally gluten-free.
  • Add ins – For some Mediterranean flair add in a handful of black olives and about 1/2 cup of vegan Feta cheese (I love Violife & Follow Your Heart). Our fresh vegan mozzarella + a drizzle of basil pesto is always a nice addition as well.
  • Vegetables – When tomatoes are out of season you can swap them for other veggies. Think roasted broccoli florets, asparagus, butternut squash, zucchini, eggplant, sautéed spinach, marinated artichoke hearts or roasted peppers.
  • Storage + Reheating – This dish keeps well stored in the fridge for up to 5 days in lidded air tight containers. It can be reheated on the stovetop (or microwave) by adding a little bit of water to loosen things up. During the hot summer months it’s actually really nice served at room temperature or as a salad straight from the fridge.

Italian Mediterranean Couscous

Pasta Recipes…

how to make pearl Italian couscous recipe Italian Couscous

Pearl Italian Couscous
5 from 1 vote

Italian Couscous (aka Pearl Couscous)

Pearl Italian Couscous recipe with burst tomatoes, garlic and herbs brightened up with a squeeze of fresh lemon. It's the perfect everyday meal that can be enjoyed warm or served cold as a salad.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:40 minutes
Total Time:50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups fregola or pearl couscous 1/2 lb COUSCOUS
  • 2.5 lb cherry or heirloom tomatoes
  • 8 cloves garlic (lightly smashed paper removed)
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1.5 Tbsp olive oil optional
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp sea salt or to taste
  • 1/2 cup Vegan feta optional

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 425”F.
    If using heirloom tomatoes cut them into 3/4 inch pieces or so. If using cherry tomatoes they can be left whole or sliced in half.
    2.5 lb cherry or heirloom tomatoes
  • Add the tomatoes to a large roasting dish and give them a good toss together with the garlic, thyme, rosemary, olive oil and sea salt.
    2.5 lb cherry or heirloom tomatoes, 8 cloves garlic, 10 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 sprig rosemary, 1.5 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt
  • Cook in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or so until the tomatoes burst and release their juices. Give everything a good toss halfway. Discard the herbs and garlic.
  • Cook the Couscous
  • Bring a medium pot of water to a rapid boil and season generously with sea salt. (Yes the water should taste like sea water).
  • Add the couscous and boil for 14 to 16 minutes until al dente or according to directions on the package. Drain in a collander. (Note - The Sardinian fregola I used was perfect in 15 minutes but other varieties will have different cooking times so make sure to always check the package).
    1.5 cups fregola or pearl couscous
  • Add the cooked fregola couscous to the pan with the burst tomatoes and combine. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon to brighten things up. Serve as is garnished with fresh basil or chives or sprinkle with vegan feta for some Mediterranean flair.
    1.5 cups fregola or pearl couscous, 2.5 lb cherry or heirloom tomatoes, 1/2 cup Vegan feta, 1/2 lemon

Notes

  • The Tomatoes - Go for sweet cherry tomatoes or juicy heirlooms while in season. These will burst into the most delicious sauce! Stay away from grape tomatoes which are on the drier side with tough skins and very little juice.
  • Italian Couscous / Fregola - This Sardinian pasta can be found in some grocery stores or ordered online here. Giant pearl Israeli couscous can be used in its place.
  • Add ins - For some Mediterranean flair add in a handful of black olives and about 1/2 cup of vegan Feta cheese (I love Violife & Follow Your Heart). Our fresh vegan mozzarella + a drizzle of basil pesto is always a nice addition as well.
  • Vegetables - When tomatoes are out of season you can swap them for other veggies. Think roasted broccoli florets, asparagus, butternut squash, zucchini, eggplant, sautéed spinach, marinated artichoke hearts or roasted peppers.
  • Storage + Reheating - This dish keeps well stored in the fridge for up to 5 days in lidded air tight containers. It can be reheated on the stovetop (or microwave) by adding a little bit of water to loosen things up. During the hot summer months it's actually really nice served at room temperature or as a salad straight from the fridge.

Nutrition

Calories: 438kcal | Carbohydrates: 80g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 602mg | Potassium: 909mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 2482IU | Vitamin C: 45mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: couscous, fregola, Italian couscous, pearl couscous
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 438kcal
Author: Florentina

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    The most delicious couscous I have ever had! Stocking up on Fregula couscous just so I can make this with all our garden tomatoes, thank you Florentina!