Sardinian CuisineSardinian cuisine is very versatile, but the common element is simplicity: normally dishes are not subject to long manipulations, and what really matters is the excellence of the starting product. Among the most renowned main courses we can mention the culurgioni (ravioli with potatoes and fresh cheese filling, or ricotta and cooked vegetables, depending on the areas. The ravioli are closed and seasoned with tomato sauce and Sardinian pecorino cheese; malloreddus (gnocchi made with bran flour and water, which can be seasoned with different sauces) and potato gnocchi (again seasoned with various sauces).
A very good single dish is the panada, a recipient made with pasta, which can be filled with meat and vegetables, eel and vegetables, or just vegetables (artichokes are the best ones!). The recipient is covered with a layer of pasta, cooked in the oven and eaten hot or warm.
This dish is typical of the area of Campidano and Cagliari; in food shops and bakeries it is possible to find this dish ready or pre cooked.
Among the cheese, Pecorino cheese is a must. To taste the best quality ask advice to the local people. Other renowned cheese are the sheep ricotta (eaten alone or to accompany salt and sweet dishes); the fiscidu, or fruhe, or casu agéru (or one of its other 20 names! ), basically a fresh cheese with a slightly acid taste similar to yogurt; the casu marzu, only for the braves and most of all for those who can find it in commerce (its sale is officially forbidden by the law), this cheese is said to be a real delicacy.
Meat is very good: the majority of the animals is bred in open pastures, and feed by themselves with aromatic herbs and other plants of the Mediterranean vegetation. As a result, roast and grilled meat are delicious, and don’t need to be seasoned with sauces. Pig or goat roasts are often arranged in the squares of towns and cities during peasant feasts and celebrations. Ask advice to the local people to learn which the most attractive ones are.
Even though the culinary Sardinian tradition is bound to the inland rather than the sea, the consumption of fish is high, normally cooked in a very simple manner, or even raw. Also in this case, the best thing to do is to ask advice to the local people, who will certainly be available to suggest you a good place where to taste fresh fish at an affordable price, or at least we will warn you about the places to avoid.
There are some areas which stand out for their specialities.
On the west coast bottarga is produced, consisting of fish eggs (mainly tuna), dried and aged. Many people grate a little bit of bottarga on pasta or pizza, but it can also accompany salads.
In the South-west area, particularly in Carloforte, fishing tunas is a real art, and a festival has been even dedicated to tuna, the so called Girotondo, taking place on the last days of May and the first days of June. In addition to local specialties there are many foods stands with products coming from various countries of the Mediterranean basin. The area of Alghero and the Gulf of Asinara are rich of lobsters, therefore the Alghero lobster and the Castelsardo lobster represent the main dish in all restaurants.
BreadThe varieties of bread are really numerous.
Probably the most characteristic is thepistoccu, or pane carasau, consisting of large circular crispy sheets obtained from a thin loaf which is cooked in the oven and divided into two parts. This kind of bread is typical of the Barbagia region, and originally it was meant as long preservation bread, eaten by the shepherds during the long days spent on the mountains with the flocks. This is why the carasau bread is normally produced in the ovens of Barbagia and Ogliastra, while in the rest of Sardinia it is “imported”. There is also a variant with potatoes or integral, but in all cases it can be eaten alone or accompanying olives and pecorino cheese; filled; seasoned with oil and salt; grilled (pane guttiau) or seasoned with tomato sauce or pecorino (pane frattau).
Some special decorations and creations made with this bread are prepared in the occasion of peasant feasts, and the result is so beautiful that you wouldn’t want to eat them!!
CakesAs for cakes, the main ingredients for many cakes are almonds and other kinds of dry fruit, candy oranges, sweet qualities of cheese and, above all, honey, which is always added in the mixture.
Sardinian honey has an intense taste, reminding of the flavours of the undergrowth. It is the main ingredient of a special quality of torrone.
Among the cakes made of almonds there are amarettos, a crispy cake called gattò (probably from the French word gateau), the gueffus, or sospiri (candies made of fine almond paste. They can also be made with mirto).
Another very good cake is the seada, a sort of big raviolo filled with sweet melted cheese, fried and served very hot, and sprinkled with honey or sugar. Caschettas, are some little baskets made with a thin layer of pasta filled with honey, cinnamon, orange peel and hazelnuts. Aranzada: a mixture made with orange peel cut in very thin wires and let immersed in honey with the addition of almond rods.
Formaggelle: little cups made with thin layers of pasta and filled with ricotta and sugar, with a little sprinkle of saffron.
WinesAmong the wines, the most renowned is the Vermentino, a white wine produced all over Sardinia, but in Gallura it has obtained the DOCG designation. Cannonau, is another famous wine, which is said to be one of the most ancient of the whole Mediterranean. It is red and strong, suitable for substantial dishes prepared with culurgioni and pig or lamb roast.
Cannonau is especially produced in the territory of Jerzu, in Ogliastra, where the wine feast takes place every year during the first week of August, with tastings and visits to the cellars. A liquorish wine typical of Sardinia is mirto: choose only local production in order to avoid any doubts on the addition of food colourings or natural spices. Sardinia also produces a quality of beer which can be found in bars, restaurants and shops: it is light, bitter and quite good.
Over the last years a peculiar form of food tourism is taking shape. In fact it is possible to visit some ancient sheep-folds of the Supramonte region, with the owners or some hired guides accompanying the tourists in the excursions, with banquets composed by typical Sardinian products. This initiative has been much appreciated both by the local people and the tourists, and the word of mouth will be will play the major role in choosing the excursions and the menus.