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The Cooking and Cuisine of Sardinia


Kevin72
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In June we will be covering the cooking of Sardinia. Some of the descriptions of the cooking utilize the word “archaic” and “Neolithic”; the native Sardinians here have ancestry on the island going back thousands of years. Throughout history, different nations have laid claim to the island and tried to establish footholds at various parts. Unlike Sicily, however, comparatively little intermingling of cooking styles, recipes, and ingredients have penetrated inland, where the Sardinians made their home over the centuries. Thus, the cooking style remains very simple, honest, and unadulterated: lots of hearth cooking, roasting on spits, or in pits dug into the ground, with the natural herbs, principally myrtle, used to flavor the meat.

Like Liguria to the north, Sardinia does not have a rich tradition of seafood dishes until relatively recently. Unlike Liguria, however, it is not because the waters around Sardinia are poor in seafood but instead the natives have for generations lived inland amongst the hills and plateaus of the island. Supposedly, the purpose for this originally was to avoid the frequent pirate raids along the coast, but also because many of the beaches were havens for malaria. Two authors, Waverly Root and Claudia Roden, even go so far as to say Sardinians show an aversion to the water and an active disdain for fish!

This would appear to be changing, and almost at an exponential rate. Root’s book The Foods of Italy, published in the early 70s, describes only one port city, really, and a paucity of seafood trattorie and ristorante there; Roden’s book, written in the early 90s, mentions that tourism, beachfront development, and a return to the shore have flooded the island’s industry in just 20 years.

In Root’s rather good chapter on Sardinia, he mentions that the severe climate of the island makes it difficult to grow vegetables, and indeed, there aren't many recipes for vegetables that I’ve encountered in my research. Most often traditional dishes come with one of the many types of bread made all over the island. Root says that bread, in fact, plays an even larger role than pasta does in Sardinia.

This may be a difficult month for references and resources for those of us in the U.S., at least. An Amazon book search for “Sardinia” and “Sardegna” only turns up one book: Guliano Bugiali’s Foods of Sicily and Sardinia and the Smaller Islands. So, we’ll need to cull together our resources and rely on writeups in regional surveys. Therefore, books that mention Sardinia that I have:

The Regional Food of Southern Italy by Marleni di Blasi (recently reprinted and republished under a new name)

Claudia Roden’s Foods of Italy

Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni

Culinaria: Italy

Islands in the Sun by Marlena Spieler

Again, I highly recommend Spieler’s Islands in the Sun. It’s an interesting book highlighting the cooking of many of the islands all over the peninsula: not just Sicily and Sardinia, but also Elba, Capri, Ischia, Pantelleria, the Aeolian Isles, etc. Many very vibrant, summery recipes and a perfect accompaniment to this time of year.

Famous dishes: as mentioned, lots of spit and pit-roasted meat, including a variant on porchetta called porceddu; the famous pane carasau, aka carte musica bread, the crispy baked flatbread shepherds carry with them and then refresh in water before eating with grated cheese; malloredus, a type of gnocchi with saffron in the dough; Culingionis, a stuffed pasta, and carnaxiu, an item that puts the U.S. turducken to shame: A boned out calf, stuffed with a kid, stuffed with a suckling pig, stuffed with a hare, stuffed with a partride, stuffed with a quail. Who's volunteering for this one?

Anyone have any luck finding Sardinian Maggot Cheese? :biggrin:

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I am really looking forward to the next 2 months.

I bought the Bugiali book you mention just yesterday! I had been eyeing it for a while and this seemed to be the perfect occasion. (or excuse :smile: )

I also have Antonio Carluccio's Southern Italian Feast, which has a couple of Sardinian recipes.

One thing I read about in the Bugiali book is fregola (I might be misspelling this, don't have the book with me now) which is couscous, moistened and baked and then rolled into larger lumps to form a kind of pasta. This really intrigued me and I'm definitely going to try it.

I also noticed the use of saffron, apparently Sardinia is famous for it's saffron.

This might be a good moment to say how much I am enjoying these monthly projects. They are really giving me a totally new feel for Italian cuisine, and the diversity of the cooking is so interesting. I am learning a lot.

Also, it helps on deciding what to cook.. "sorry honey, we have to eat Sardinian again, for eGullet, you know" :laugh:

Edited by Chufi (log)
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Let me know what you think of the book, Klary since I haven't seen it and having just purchased three new books that haven't arrived yet (two relevant to this thread), I am holding off a bit.

If you're off to tend your flocks, here's the bread.

A feature on Sardinia at epicurious.

And the ever-reliable entries at About.com.

ETA: I am not the only here who bought a package of fregola in advance! :biggrin: Mine came with a recipe for clams on the back.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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ETA: I am not the only here who bought a package of fregola in advance! :biggrin:  Mine came with a recipe for clams on the back.

you bought the fregola ready made? the recipe Bugiali gives is made from couscous and seems quite elaborate and timeconsuming so that would be good to know.. not that that means I can buy it in Amsterdam ofcourse :smile:

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Great info! I am really looking forward to this month. My grandfather on my mother's side was from Sardinia! But! I think I will pass on the special cheese! :raz:

-Mike

-Mike & Andrea

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Several interesting recipes can be found in Molto Mario's episodes about Sardegna. Here is a list of the episodes, Sardegna is about halfway down the page: Molto Mario Episodes

Luckily, pretty much all recipes are there and not expired. The ones that piqued my interest include among others...:

Partridge under oil

fried zucchini-ricotta fritters

the fried ravioli type dessert

Culingionis con Cirubba, this just sounds cool

I wish the lobster lasagne one was not expired. Sounds tasty.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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you bought the fregola ready made? the recipe Bugiali gives is made from couscous and seems quite elaborate and timeconsuming so that would be good to know.. not that that means I can buy it in Amsterdam ofcourse :smile:

I've been astonished at seeing fregula in quite a few places lately. I saw Lidia Bastianich make this on one of her older shows; it involved a sieved box that she shook the dampened flour through to form pellets. It does look like a production.

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Soooo... I read the Bugialli book in bed last night, cover to cover. Didn't make any specific plans for dinner though. Then, today, I realized that it will be almost 2 weeks before I will have time for some serious Sardinian cooking, for various reasons that I won't bother you with. But I'm itching to start the month!

So I went to the supermarket after work and this was the only dish from the book that I could remember all the ingredients for:

Cavolfiore con olive

gallery_21505_2929_12648.jpg

Cauliflower, braised with a mixture of chopped dried tomatoes, parsley, garlic and onion. The olives are mixed in right before serving. We had it at room temp with a ham/mushroom/ricotta fritata and some ciabatta, it was a really nice side dish, with a mellow almost sweet flavor that's balanced by the pungent olives.

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When I think of Sardinian food, I think of stinky sheep cheeses. (With or without maggots.) When I was in Parma at the beginning of May, there was a food fair with a Sardinian booth:

gallery_7432_1362_5420.jpg

Those cheeses at the end were pretty good. But stinky, yo.

One of my favorite Sardinian foods are gnochetti: a shell-shaped pasta, sort of but not exactly like gnocchi. Usually served with a sort of tomato and sausage sauce (though they're also good-- though less traditional-- with pesto.)

Edited by Andrew Fenton (log)
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One of my favorite Sardinian foods are gnochetti: a shell-shaped pasta, sort of but not exactly like gnocchi.  Usually served with a sort of tomato and sausage sauce (though they're also good-- though less traditional-- with pesto.)

Andrew,

the gnocchetti (and sauce) sound exactly like malloreddus alla Campidanese. I'd kill for a dish of these now :biggrin: !

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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you bought the fregola ready made? the recipe Bugiali gives is made from couscous and seems quite elaborate and timeconsuming so that would be good to know.. not that that means I can buy it in Amsterdam ofcourse :smile:

I've been astonished at seeing fregula in quite a few places lately. I saw Lidia Bastianich make this on one of her older shows; it involved a sieved box that she shook the dampened flour through to form pellets. It does look like a production.

I am looking forward to this month as well. I didn't realize this but I have made Sardinian food in the past! I've made Lidia's fregola, using my sieve, and it is really easy and satisfying.

I've also made the semolina gnocchi with saffron many times (known as ciciones) and really loved them. This one came from my book Italy The Beautiful Cookbook by Lorenza de Medici. It's a great big book with great pictures and covers all regions. Time to revisit these old friends!

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Forgive me if someone's already mentioned this, but is there a North African presence in Sardinian cuisine? Carthage controlled Sardinia at one time (ok, that was quite some time ago) and the couscous-type dish made me think of North Africa.

Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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Not as much as in Sicily, alot of countries either claimed it from afar or established outposts there but then moved on without being absorbed into the native customs. A few things here and there have taken hold: the couscous, the culingionis I mentioned above came from the Piemontese or Savoy's rule of the island.

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Forgive me if someone's already mentioned this, but is there a North African presence in Sardinian cuisine? Carthage controlled Sardinia at one time (ok, that was quite some time ago) and the couscous-type dish made me think of North Africa.

Lexy, the cous cous dish has a more recent origin and is connected to Genova's role in the Mediterranean.

One of Genova's colonies on the Northern African shores at the times of the sea-faring republics was the island of Tabarka, inhabited by settlers coming from the ligurian Pegli. They remained there till the eraly XVIII century, when pirate raids and the mounting French influence in the area pushed them to move. They were granted a right to settle on the Sardinian island of San Pietro by Carlo Emanuele III di Savoia and founded the town of Carloforte.

Carloforte remains a fascinating and unique place. The people speek a Ligurian dialect, their recipes have a strong Tunisian influence, hence then cous cous, and they are famous for their love for tuna.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Those cheeses at the end were pretty good.  But stinky, yo.

Were they soft or really young?

I bought pecorino Sardo for the pesto I made last weekend and was surprised that it was a fairly young cheese.

You know, I'm not sure how old they were. The texture wasn't hard like an aged pecorino, so I guess they weren't too old. They weren't stinky like a gorgonzola or soft stinky cheese; it's more that they had a real odor of... sheep.

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Fiore Sardo is ideal for pesto. It's by definition, aged.

Click on wheels of cheeses at the bottom of this site for better picture with more detailed information. (I could not find a site in English, though, I am sure something exists.)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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My public library had a few more relevant books:

The Mondadori Regional Italian Cookbook by Anna Martini (NYC: 1982)

The Food of Southern Italy by Carlo Middione (NYC: 1987) which is organized not by region, but by category of food with representative recipes for each region, beginning with all recipies for pizzas and breads.

I also found a couple of recipes in the second cookbook by Danny Meyer & Michael Romano of Union Square Cafe, including ravioli made with chard and fresh Sardinian pecorino.

The other lists bottargo as an ingredient, another local specialty which should be interesting tracking down.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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the gnocchetti (and sauce) sound exactly like malloreddus alla Campidanese. I'd kill for a dish of these now  :biggrin: !

And so I dedicate my first dish of Sardinia to Alberto :biggrin: :

Malloreddus Alla Campidanese. Following the recipe in Bugialli on Pasta except for a mysterious lack of bay leaf in the house and it is too early for fresh tomatoes in NorCal so I used canned San Marzanos. I also cooked it a touch too long due to a delayed guest but still a perfect simple pasta dish. The ingredients were just olive oil, tomatoes, sausage, basil, garlic to perfume the oil and a pinch of saffron. Adding realism was a bit of mature pecorino sardo. The cheese I have was fairly subtle with a less pronounced flavor and salt level than the pecorino romano and parmigiano I buy. Good stuff.

73079202-O.jpg

And if any one has not seen these pastas yet, here is a pic of my malloreddus and fregola. I have not cooked the fregola yet but the texture looks great! For those that can't track these down and don't want to try making them from scratch, I suspect the Israeli cous cous (as they are sold in the us) could stand in ok. These were made by Tanda e Spada in Sardegna.

73079204-O.jpg

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the gnocchetti (and sauce) sound exactly like malloreddus alla Campidanese. I'd kill for a dish of these now  :biggrin: !

And so I dedicate my first dish of Sardinia to Alberto :biggrin: :

Thanks! Too bad I can't tatse the dish through the pic: licking my laptop screen doesn't seem to work :laugh: .

The dish looks great and I think your choice of cheese is spot on. Although Sardegna produces most of the Pecorino Romano out there, it is not used much there. I believe Fiore Sardo, less salty and subtler, is tthe cheese of choice.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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