While so many of us head to Italy for the sun and the scenery, the art and the culture, there are plenty more who travel to this part of the world for the food. After all, the different regions of Italy are packed with familiar flavors, and this is also the case for Sardinia too. While it is true that just as many travelers opt for a Sardinian holiday because of the island’s stunning beaches, which number in the hundreds, this is also a place for the dedicated foodies as well.
Unlike mainland Italy, Sardinian food has been heavily influenced by the many groups that have invaded and departed over the centuries. There were the Nuraghic people, who left behind their unique tall towers, then the Carthaginians and Phoenicians, Arabs and Spaniards and Romans. More than two thousand years have created an utterly unique cuisine here. Because of that, it is important that a visitor understands the “must taste” flavors, ingredients and dishes.
The pastas to savor during a visit include fregula, which is similar to couscous. Then there is malloreddus, which is similar to potato gnocchi but made with semolina. Though many different toppings appear, a Sardinian classic is the use of cuttlefish ink.
Breads are found by the hundreds of varieties and you will want to be sure you sample a pane carasau, which is round and thin and made like very crisp flat bread. Served with salt and olive oil, it is a delight. Look for it made into pane frattau, which is when it is doused in lamb stock and spread with pecorino cheese and tomato paste and served with a boiled egg. There is also pane civraxiu, which is a classic country loaf ideal for eating fresh or enjoying with soups.
As you might guess, Sardinia is home to amazing charcuterie. Long a wonderful part of all Italian cuisine, the Sardinian twist includes salsiccia sarda, which is a blend of traditional sausage with classic salami. Made with pork, it will have a strong anise and fennel flavor. You will want to shop around until you find a version made with wild boar and even smoked over traditional myrtle to savor the most authentic flavor.
Seafood is a huge favorite here, and the island is noted for its lobsters from Alghero, but cooks on the island also use a great deal of bottarga, which is a tuna roe that is dried and salted. Savor it sliced thin on bread and you may never forget its amazing flavors. Snails are huge on the island, and called lumache when prepared in the local manner – even if the idea of snails does not appeal, most find this dish to be irresistible.
Meat leans towards lamb and pork, but the ultimate dish for visitors to savor is porceddu, or suckling pig that is spit roasted for several hours over aromatic woods. It is not all that difficult to find, but one of the most famous restaurants serving it is Agriturismo Sa Mandra near Alghero.
No visit to Sardinia is complete without the consumption of copious quantities of local cheese. It is their largest export and the best include brigante, capra sarda, fiore sardo, pecorino romano DOP and the locally made ricotta fresca and ricotta stagionata. Pair up some of the cheeses with local wines, especially Sella & Mosca vintages that have been produced on Sardinia since the 1800s.
Whether you pursue these must have flavors and items in shops and grocers or you head to the restaurants of Sardinia to sample them, they will only enhance your experience of this unique and wonderful island.