In the stellar category that is Italian food, the cuisine of Sardinia is often neglected. Overshadowed by everyone from the Ligurians to the Milanese, the Sardinians have been quietly producing dishes of serious quality on their similarly overlooked Mediterranean treasure of an island. We highlight some wonderful Sardinian dishes and suggest some great places where you can eat them.
Also known as carta da musica, pane carasau is a thin, crisp bread that Sardinian shepherds used to take with them because it stays fresh for so long. It is also used to prepare other dishes, including pane frattau, a layer of the bread soaked in lamb stock, spread with a meat ragu and topped with a soft fried egg to resemble a kind of lasagne. Try pane frattau at Hotel Su Gologone
at Via Nuoro in Oliena. Other specialty dry breads include civraxiu, a highly decorative bread called coccoi pinatus, and pistoccu, also intended for herders, but often served at home with tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic and pecorino cheese.
Pasta with Bottarga
Bottarga, also called Sardinian caviar, is a form of dried fish eggs, and it is incredibly tasty grated over spaghetti with artichokes and salted ricotta. Try this in Dr Ampex
, a charming restaurant in the Stampace district of Cagliari.
Suckling pig (proceddu), Sardinia’s national dish, is frequently cooked on a bed of myrtle branches, a herb that is widely used in this region. Traditionally, the piglet is cooked on a spit over a large open fire and often takes between four and five hours to roast. The open flames produce a crispy and decidedly moreish piece of meat that is generally served at special feasts such as weddings or large family gatherings. Suckling pig and wild boar are also boiled in stews of beans and vegetables, thickened with bread.
Culurgiones are a form of ravioli filled with potatoes, Pecorino cheese, egg, onion, mint and garlic. Try them at Angedras Restaurant
Everything at Hotel Gallura
Hotel Gallura is a perfectly adequate family-run establishment in the heart of Olbia, but where it really shines is with its food. People from across northern Sardinia come here to eat. The restaurant offers a kaleidoscope of all that is great about the island’s cuisine, and everything is so fresh and delicious that you are likely to gorge yourself shamefully. Head chef and proprietress Rita Denza really knows how to cook fish, which you can enjoy served in wine, with salt, or grilled. Rock lobster, scampi, squid, tuna, sardines are the seafoods most favoured in Sardinia
Myrtle is a commonly used herb in Sardinia, and it makes its way into the popular liqueur Mirto. Mirto rosso is distilled from the myrtle berries, and Mirto bianco is a product of the leaves of the myrtle plant. Mirto is generally served chilled as an after-dinner digestive. Most restaurants will offer their homemade mirto which is stronger, and better than that of the various popular brands you can buy. Ask for mirto fatto in casa. Try it at Li Licci
, in the Valentino Valley.