You probably have plenty of iconic dishes and cheeses from Italy you know and love. And when someone brings up “an island off the Italian mainland” you most likely think of Sicily or Capri. Let’s take a tasting tour off the beaten path today and explore an Italian island you may not be as familiar with – Sardinia!
The second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, and one of the 20 regions of Italy; Sardinia is located west of the Italian Peninsula, north of Tunisia and immediately south of the French island of Corsica. This 9,300 square mile island has unique culinary traditions all its own including a Catalan influence from Spain. In the mountains and inland areas, meals revolve around meat and cheese while the vast coastline gives Sardinian cuisine access to all kinds of seafood and delicacies from the sea. Here are the most iconic dishes and foods:
The home cheese of Sardinia; Pecorino Sardo, has been made on the island for thousands of years. This sharp, salty, nutty sheep’s milk cheese is a favorite in recipes and as antipasto.
These small pies were originally an Easter dessert but are now found year round and served for breakfast or a snack. Pastry is filled with a mix of ricotta, saffron, and lemon or you can also find a similar pastry known as “Casadinas”, made with young Pecorino Sardo cheese instead of Ricotta cheese.
A specialty of the island’s mountainous regions and a classic on antipasto spreads; this wafer-thin, crispy bread is a traditional and ancient shepherd recipe.
Among the most famous meat dishes on the island, and a real countryside tradition, Sardinian often celebrate with a long and slow roast suckling pig, cooked on a spit for up to seven hours. Historically the pig was roasted in an earthen pit with local herbs and aromatics like myrtle and rosemary but today they’re often served alongside the roasted pork.
This unique variety of Sardinian pasta is similar to Israeli couscous. It’s often made by hand using a sieve, called a scivedda to press the pasta dough into small chewy pellets. Fregula is often prepared like risotto or served in room temperature salads.
All cultures seem to have a stuffed “dumpling” and these delicious versions of Italian ravioli are filled with potatoes, Pecorino Cheese, and mint. They traditionally hail from the Ogliastra area, but there are many slightly different variations. Culurgiones are often served in a red sauce or with butter and Parmesan Reggiano cheese.
Zuppa Gallurese or Suppa Cuata
Gallurese soup is a staple on Sardinia and more of a lasagna or layered casserole than a soup! Slices of stale bread are layered with lamb or sheep broth and fresh cow’s milk cheese and then finished with grated Pecorino Sardo.
Pecora in Cappotto
The name itself translates to “sheep in a coat” and this cozy mutton stew with potatoes and herbs is a classic dish of the Sardinian islands. Today, mutton is being revived as a delicacy by Sardinian chefs who use it in everything from tartare to ragus.
With roots in the south and central parts of the island, this semolina and saffron pasta is served everywhere on the island and is almost a cross between cavatelli and gnocchi. Malloreddus are often tossed with a ragu of pork sausages, tomatoes, and of course iconic grated Pecorino Sardo made on the island.
Seadas or Sebadas
A classic Sardinian dessert, these deep-fried sweet ravioli are filled with fresh Pecorino cheese and lemon zest then drizzled with honey and dusted with sugar for extra sweetness.
Sea urchins are ubiquitous on Sardinia where there are even festivals celebrating them.
Lobster Stew is a popular dish showcasing the Catalan influence on Sardinian food. And finally, Bottarga is found on menus all through Sardinia. Made of dried mullet fish roe, this delicacy all through the Mediterranean is grated on everything from pasta to vegetables to risotto.
Want to learn more about the iconic Pecorino Cheese made on Sardinia and select regions of Italy? Check out our piece here!