Frue, burrida, civraxiu, fregula, malloreddusu, casizolu, pani frattau, filindeu, tzilicca... no ad hoc recipes to amaze the palate, simple and refined notes, delicate and at the same time robust flavours of the sea and the land skilfully blended, fragrances of special seasonings, from extra virgin oils to wild herbs. This is a cuisine where ancient acts and rituals are repeated, celebrating the mastery of traditional cuisine and expressing the art of young chefs capable of conveying the soul of their land through dishes rooted in memory and history, never the same from one place to another. In Sardinia, nothing is the same: wherever you go, traditions, culture and even language are incredibly different. Even the most popular 'non-sweet' dessert goes by many names: in Nuoro you have to order a sevada, in Cagliari a seada, elsewhere a sebada, seatta, or sabada (a deep-fried dumpling with cheese and honey). Each time it will seem like a dessert with new nuances, because the type of cheese, sheep or cow's milk, cooked or raw, and the type of honey added when cooked, delicate in the south, more sour in other areas, will be different.
It’s almost impossible to put your finger on Sardinian cuisine. Even is culurgiones(stuffed pasta) take on different forms in Ogliastra itself, where they are the symbol of cuisine. In Tortolì they are 'lighter': the filling of potatoes, mint and onions is blended with a mix of mostly fresh and sweet cheeses. A few kilometres away, onion is considered a heresy, garlic appears and the balance of the cheeses leans towards aged pecorino and su casu 'e ditta. This salted cheese is used alongside wild mint to flavour 'poor' soups made from potatoes, pulses or vegetables grown in the family garden. The ancient and simple recipes of daily cooking are the basis of the Mediterranean diet and the Ogliastra blue zone, today also valued in restaurants. The same fate that found the culurgiones befalls the exquisite supa cuata of Gallura, a dish of medieval origin. Despite the long-standing recipe, there are several variants to be enjoyed, as the combination of ingredients changes from one community to another. The only certainty for this tasty dish, cooked in the form of a timbale, is the home-made durum wheat bread, at least three days old.
Other lands, other stories. The ultra tasty frattau bread is a delicacy of Barbagie, from the village all the way to the mountain sheepfolds where the shepherds stayed during their transhumance, far from home. The traditional recipe is handed down as it is from generation to generation, sheets of pistoccu or carasau flatbread softened in meat broth and layered with tomato sauce and pecorino cheese and at the end a poached egg. Historical events and ancestral customs, typical of each corner of the island, have ensured that the flavours are always as varied as the character of each individual territory. And often the dishes identify the place: in Carloforte, a seaside village devoted to blending peoples and cultures, they cook not only the best tuna in the Mediterranean but also an unusual cous cous inherited from the ancient navigators based in Sulcis. It is now considered a typical dish of traditional Sardinian cuisine, almost on par with the popular porceddu , a suckling pig slowly roasted, the old-fashioned way. There is, however, a Spanish soul in the imaginative cuisine of Alghero, so don’t leave without tasting the prized lobsters cooked 'Catalan style'. A real treat.
Not just shellfish, the Sardinian sea offers an infinity of inexpensive fish showcased in dishes with unparalleled flavours. Just pay a visit to the lively market in the centre of Cagliari to see the variety and freshness of the fish that lands on Sardinian dinner tables. From the catshark comes the burrida inspired by the recipe of fishermen of yore, will linger in the memory of your senses. And then there are eels to be roasted on the grill or used as a filling for panadas de mari that recall Spanish empanadas, a sort of savoury pie encased in pasta violata pastry, su croxiu in Campidanese. Depending on taste and season, it is also stuffed with lamb and artichokes. There is no shortage of mussels on the market stalls to add flavour to fish soups, and clams to give life to the ancient and sublime fregula de cocciula, a dish that is both simple and elaborate, made from crumbs of durum wheat semolina pasta, toasted and cooked with baby clams, adding fish broth and wild herbs from time to time.
An unmistakable taste, like that of bottarga (salted, cured fish roe) made from the eggs of mullets caught in the ponds around Cabras and Oristano, then processed by hand and dried by the sun and the wind. With its complex, savoury taste, brackish aroma and almondy aftertaste, a simple plate of spaghetti becomes the sensory experience of a 'temple of taste' when sprinkled with a veil of Sinis bottarga. Just as classic Milanese risotto will have a special taste if seasoned with Campidano saffron. Two jewels that are easy to pack in your suitcase so you can enjoy the unusual and rich flavours of Sardinia on your return home.