a tavola - the cuisine of sardinia
(return to food)
"Sardinian cooking is of a poor nature,'' says Nicola Nieddu,
chef at Mill Valley's Piazza d'Angelo. Nieddu grew up in Santa Teresa Gallura, the
northernmost town on Sardinia, and food of his childhood was typical of
kitchens where one must make a lot from a little.
Favata, a favorite winter soup of dried fava beans and pig's feet,
nourished him and other Sardinians at all hours of the day; farm workers
even eat it for breakfast, says Nieddu.
"We eat everything," says the chef, "liver, kidneys, hearts, eyeballs.
When you kill the pig for sausage, you don't throw any part away. You save
the blood and make a pudding with chocolate."
Nieddu, who occasionally cooks Sardinian specialties at the restaurant and
has even done entire Sardinian evenings, knows he has to choose and
describe the dishes carefully. A mixed grill with kidney, heart and liver
sells poorly; spaghetti with bottarga -- dried tuna roe -- sells well. He
has found takers for suppa cuata, a hearty specialty of his town. To make
it, he layers dense country bread, two kinds of cheese and a meat ragu made
with veal, pork and lamb. He pours goat broth over all and bakes the
casserole until it's crusty on top.
Livestock -- sheep, cattle, goats and pigs -- is a foundation of the
Sardinian economy, and Sardinians eat a great deal of meat: suckling pig
roasted with myrtle leaves, roast baby lamb, and lots of horse meat. Nieddu
recalls a butcher in his town who dealt in nothing but young donkey and
The livestock also contributes to a rich tradition of cheese production on
the island; Sardinian ricotta, Nieddu says, is like nothing available here.
Sweetened with sugar and lemon peel, the ricotta made a filling for
puligioni, sweet ravioli topped with tomato sauce and basil or with meat
ragu. Malloreddus -- Sardinian gnocchi flavored with saffron -- would
typically be served in tomato sauce with a shower of the island's pecorino,
Source: Nicola Nieddu, Sardinia
Bottarga - Mullet Eggs
Cut bottarga into thin strips, put them on a plate and season with oil and
Anguille Marinate - Marinated Eels
onion sliced thin
Take eels of the same size, wash, clean, cut into pieces salt and saute'
them. thinly slice an onion and crush two cloves of garlic. Put plenty of
oil in a pan and lightly saute' the onion and the garlic. Add half a glass
of white wine and bring to the boil. Add the basil, the laurel, a sprig of
mint and cook for a few minutes. Put the cooked eels in a large bowel and
cover with the marinade (olive oil, vinegar, salt). Leave the eels at least
two days to become flavorful before serving them.
PANE - BREAD
Bread and pasta are the mainstays of the Sardinian diet.
There are small and large bakeries producing bread all over the island. in
the Island. Bread has a strong symbolic value as it plays a central role in
festivals. There are breads that are only made for special occasions. These
are not made by bakers but are home made. These breads are made following
ancient traditions and recipes.
Among the Sardinian breads with an international reputation pane carasau is
probably the most well known. This bread is called carta da musica ( music
paper). It consists of very thin circular crisp sheets of pastry and it
keeps a long time. Pane carasau was the bread eaten by shepherds when
they were away from home for long periods tending their flocks. If pane
caraus is served with tomatoes and eggs, it becomes a speciality called
pane frattau (see recipe below) The same bread seasoned with oil and salt
is called pane guttiau. Another well known Sardinian bread is civraxiu. It
is large and circular in shape and has a crisp crust and soft interior . It
is delicious when dipped in the fat of roasted pig or lamb. It is
worthwhile starters and mentioning su coccoi which is made from semolina
or very side dishes fine flour in the Campidano area. Su coccoi is a very
popular bread not only for its taste but also for its shape which changes
from village to village. There is also su moddizzosu which is a circular
and very soft bread. It is particularly good with cheese and sausages.
Another bread is spianadas which is circular in shape, soft and easy to
Pane Frattau - Frattau Bread
Music Paper bread
4 soft-boiled eggs
4 tsp of grated pecorino cheese
Put pieces of the bread into boiling, salted water for a few seconds, put
into a collander and then onto plates. Pour the tomato sauce on top, the
pecorino, one whole egg and again some pecorino. Each person will break
his or her own egg and amalgamate it with the other ingredients.
PRIMI PIATTI - FIRST COURSES
Gnocchetti alla smeraldina - Emerald Coast Gnocchi
4 oz. fresh pork sausage
1 oz. wild fennel
1/4 pint dry white wine - Vermentino
7 oz. tomato sauce
1/2 oz. ground onion
3 slices of Peretta cheese - hard sheep cheese
1/2 lb. Sardinian fresh gnocchi
1 oz grated Parmesan
Cut the sausages into round slices, brown the onions, add the sausages and
brown, wet with the wine and let it evaporate. Add the tomato sauce,and the
chopped wild fennel and cook for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook the gnocchi and add them to the sauce, saut� sprinkling with Parmesan.
Put them in an oven dish with the Peretta cheese slices on top and broil
for a few minutes.
Source: from our friends at Mangiarebene
Vellutata di Asparagi - Asparagus Cream Soup
6 oz asparagus
7 oz onion
1 oz olive oil
1 oz flour
1/2 oz butter
1 oz veal roast juice
2 egg yolks
2 oz Parmesan cheese
Wash and clean the asparagus, cut roughly keeping aside a few tips for
decoration. Saut� the onion in olive oil, add the
asparagus and stir with a wooden spoon. Dust with half the flour and add
the meat juice and allow to cook. When they are ready put in the electric
blender, adding the Parmesan and egg yolks. Put the mixture back into the
pan and thicken adding the remaining flour and the butter. Serve hot
decorated with the sparagus tips.
Spaghetti alla Vernaccia - Spaghetti with Vernaccia
500 gr. of spaghetti
200 gr. of thinly sliced onion
200 gr. of Vernacia di Oristano
150 gr. of cultivated mushrooms
Thinly slice the onion and cook it gently with 3 spoons of olive oil and
all the Vernaccia (except 1/4 of a glass) until the wine has completely
evaporated. Clean the mushrooms and slice them, saute' them in hot oil, add salt and
pepper. Cook the spaghetti and remove it to a collander when it is only half done.
Add the onion and mushrooms as well as a tiny bit of butter, chopped
parsley, salt, pepper and the remaining wine. Put it all in a doubled
piece of aluminium foil and close it. Put it in an oven dish and put that
into the oven at 220C or about 430F for 5 minutes. Serve the pasta in the
aluminium foil at the table
One of the main forms of Sardinian cooking is roasting. Roasting is a
ritual that is almost exclusively reserved to men and on special occasions
it is an honor left to the most experienced among the men.
The best known roast is sucking pig which is roasted on a hand crafted spit
made of arbutus wood. While the sucking pig is roasting, lard and aromatic
grasses such as myrtle, rosemary, laurel and sage are added which flavours
the sucking pig.
Another way of roasting which is called mallori de su sabatteri in the
language of Nuoro, consists in putting the animals one inside the other in
the following way: inside a calf put a goat which in turn contains a
sucking pig and keep on inserting an animal into another like a Chinese
Sardinia, despite its abundant fish and sea food, does not have many
original recipes because Sardinian people have never been
sailors. For this reason the seafood specialities are influenced by other
populations who arrived in Sardinia. Let us mention
burrida, a dish from Genova but transformed by Sardinian cuisine. This dish
consists of lesser spotted dogfish covered with an oil, vinegar and chopped
walnut sauce. There is also cassola, a soup made of various fish; the
delicious roast mullet and scabecciu, which is mullet marinade in vinegar;
lobster with vernaccia which is a dish consisting of lobster seasoned with
cloves and white wine.
Pesce Spada alla Sardegnia - Swordfish Sardinian Style with Mint and Saffron
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
About 35 small fresh mint leaves, torn into bits
1 cup dry white wine
Large pinch of saffron
1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes or peeled, fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped
Red chile pepper, chopped, fresh or dried, to taste
2 1/2 pounds fresh swordfish steaks, about 1 inch thick
Using a saute pan that will later fit all the fish, put in olive oil and
garlic and turn heat on to medium. Cook the garlic, stirring once or twice
until it becomes a very pale gold color.
Add the mint, stir quickly 3 or 4 times, then add the white wine and
saffron. When the wine has simmered a minute or so and the scent of the
alcohol has subsided, add the chopped tomato, salt, and chile pepper. Cook
at a lively simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fat begins to separate
from the sauce, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Clean the swordfish steaks of any skin and if very large, cut them into
pieces no longer than 4 inches. Put the fish in the pan, sprinkling it with
salt and turning it over in the sauce a few times. Cook at lively heat for
3 minutes on one side and 2 to 3 minutes on the other side. Transfer the
entire contents of the saute pan to a platter and serve immediately.
Ahead of time note: The sauce can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead and then
reheated in a pan and the fish added to it and cooked just before serving
Serves 4 to 6.
Source: Marcella Hazan's, Marcella Cucina.
VERDURA - VEGETABLES
Zucche alla Sarda - Sardinian-Style Squash
2 lb. 3 oz. long squash
extra-vergine olive oil
14 oz. tomatoes
several mint leaves
grated pecorino cheese
Cut the squash into strips. Chop the onion. Heat some oil in a pan and
brown the onion. Peel and seed the tomatoes and cut them into pieces. Add
the tomato pieces to the pan. Boil for a few minutes, then add the strips
of squash. Season with salt and add several mint leaves (or a pinch of
dried mint). Cook until the squash is tender and serve hot, sprinkling each
serving with grated pecorino.
Frittelle di ricotta - Fried Ricotta
350 gr. of ricotta, passed through a sieve
200 gr. of amaretti, mashed
100 gr. of sugar
100 gr. of white flour, sifted
3 whole eggs
1 level teaspoon of powdered cinnamon
some grated bread
100 gr. of butter or margerine for frying
Mix the ricotta which has been passed through a sieve, with the mashed
amaretti, 2 heaping teaspoons of sifted flour, the sugar, 1 egg and
cinnamon. If it is too soft, add additional amaretti.
Set out 3 bowls filled with 1) flour, 2) egg and 3) breadcrumbs.
Form small balls and dip them in the flour and then into the egg, and
finally into the grated bread crumbs. Heat the butter in the pan and put in
the frittelle and fry until they are golden on both sides.
Put them into a collander to drain and then serve.
DIGESTIVO - DRINK TO AID DIGESTION
With luck, upon your visit to Sardinia you will be introduced to the drink,
Mirto. Mirto is an island specialty that Sardinians swear can only be found
on the island. Made from Mirto berries found predominately in the north of
the island, the taste of this liquor resembles a strange mixture of black
licorice, blackberry, and grenadine. The dark reddish liquid is thick and
strong and though it is served in a small shot glass is to be sipped slowly
(though it may be easier to just shoot it down if the flavor doesn't quite
agree with you!)
One of the great mysteries of Mirto is that, aside from its harsh flavor, it
will leave you hangoverless the next morning, no matter how much you drink.
Beware of this promise, as it has not proved to be correct 100 percent of
the time. You'd hate to be the exception to that rule.
You can find Mirto at any bar or restaurant. Also look in small Sardinian
shops for specialty bottles. These make beautiful gifts and keepsakes to
bring home, and some bottles are even completely covered in cork which makes
the trip home all the more safe for the bottle. The taste really grows on
you, so keep trying it. Also look for homemade Mirto, as the flavor might be
more fruity and less harsh.