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Sardegna in tavola

The crystal clear waters of Mediterranean surround the mountainous island of Sardinia. The cuisine of the rugged interior contrasts dramatically from the seafood prepared along the coast.

The Land

Sardinia is isolated from the rest of Europe, both geographically and culturally.  Many ancient traditions are still alive today. The Nuragic people inhabited the island for over twelve centuries, during which they build their characteristic conical towers, called nuraghe.

The Phoenicians colonized a part of the region in the 13th  century and founded the cities of Cagliari and Nora. With the arrival of the Carthangians, the Nuragic population was forced up into the mountains. This created a sharp social and cultural distinction between the people living on the coast and low hills and those isolated in the mountains, proud of their independence and ability to survive in an hostile climate.

The habitable areas are often divided by large mountain furrows and valleys, making it difficult to for people living in the mountains to reach one another.  The coastal landscape, on the other hand, is composed primarily of high, rocky cliffs and picturesque beaches in the gulfs of Cagliari, Asinara, Oristano and Palmas.

Tourists flock to the areas of Gallura, with its islands of Maddalena and Caprera, and the gulf of Olbia, known for its beautiful Emerald Coast.  The rocky coastline is equally as captivating, especially the Arbatax, the Grotta del Bue Marino or the fascinating bear-shaped rock formation at Capo Palau.

The Food

Although the Sardinian climate is fairly mild, strong winds have limited the vegetation. Only in the areas of Gennargentu and  Gallura will you find tall trees, like the sugar oak. What little vegetation you find, is typically Mediterranean, composed of myrtle and juniper bushes, or cactus and agave.

Sardinian cuisine comes from the poor sheepherders whose recipes focus on meat cookery and preserving foods of all kinds. Chivarzu is the name of the large, local bread made by the Sardinian women, while Carasau are the thin sheets of bread that kept men from starving for months. Bread was often served with game or wild pig.

Maialino arrosto is made by spit-roasting a pig over juniper wood. The other popular cooking method is called a caraxiu and requires digging a hole in the ground, placing a grill in the hole, and burying a small pig, sheep, or lamb inside. A wood fire is first started under the meat, and then another is made on top, creating a type of primitive oven.

Merca and Sa Tacculas are two ways to preserve fish or meat after they have been cooked or salted.  In either case, the item to be preserved is rolled leaves to form small to-go packages. You will also find excellent sheep’s milk cheeses in Sardinia, like Pecorino Sardo DOP and Fiore Sardo DOP, both of which are aged to varying degrees.

Sardinians are also skilled fishermen.  They mainly catch tuna, especially from Carloforte, and mullet.  The prized mullet roe is cured to make Bottarga, a regional specialty. The lobsters from Alghero are also excellent.

Traditional home cooking in Sardinian calls for pastas served with rich sauces, like Malloreddus, or stuffed with pecorino cheese like Culingiones. Sas panadas, or baked stuffed pastry, are also popular. Along the coast, lobster meat and bottarga are often added to the pasta dishes.

During local festivals, you will find a wide variety of sweets made with honey and almonds like Gueffus or Seadas, which are made with fresh cheese. The local Amaretti and soft Lady’s finger cookies were brought to the island from Piedmont.

The strong Sardinian wines stand up to the strong flavors of the food. Look for Vernaccia, Cannonau, Malvasia, and Girò. Mirtu is a popular Sardinian digestive liquor made from myrtle berries.

Some traditional recipes of Sardinia

Filled with Pecorino cheese

Dumplings with tuna and bottarga
This is a small dumpling typical of Sardinia.

Sardinian Summer Nuraghe
This quick and refreshing dish, perfect for the summer, is made with pane carasau, an ancient bread from Sardinia that lasts an extremely long time

Seadas (traditional sardinian fritter)
This Sardinian sweet, famous throughout the world, pairs divinely the sweetness of the honey with the saltiness of the pecorino cheese, making for an intriguing and intense flavor.

History and Gastronomy

Marcus Porcius Cato, also known as Cato the Censor
Cato was a determined defender of Roman customs and traditions.