Moghrabieh is sometimes commonly referred to as giant couscous or pearl couscous. Moghrabieh is a form of rolled semolina, like couscous, but it is much larger. The word moghrabieh in Arabic means “from the countries of Morroco, Tunisia & Algeria” and and refers to both the dish and the dry, round pasta-like pellets (about the size of a chickpea) rolled from semolina, which most likely came to Syria, Palestine and Lebanon with the help of North African pilgrims, most likely en route to Mecca. In North Africa the grain is called berkoukes and it is believed that it later coined its current name making reference to its place of origin. These grains cook unevenly as they are rolled into inconsistently sized balls. These starchy pasta balls swell and become soft and chewy when cooked and are fantastic at absorbing the flavors of the dish they are cooked in.
There are several varieties of this ‘couscous’ within the Levantine territories which help to confuse the matter; the earthy Palestinian maftoul is not exactly the same thing as it is rolled from wheat and differs in size, color and shape and widely-marketed Israeli couscous, ptitim, comes in smaller sizes. If you’re unable to find moghrabieh, then fregola may be substituted. I prefer to steam the moghrabieh which helps to keep the grains distinct.