Sardinia can almost be considered a different country from Italy. And for a long time, it was. The island, located to the west of Italy, has its own language, culture and history. And a very distinct cuisine. Sardinian food, like most traditional Italian cuisines, revolves around local, high-quality ingredients and simple recipes. The food is hearty and humble, and nothing goes to waste.
One of the things that makes Sardinian food so interesting is its perceived health benefits. Sardinia is a so-called Blue Zone, a region of the world with a significantly high percentage of centenarians (people over the age of 100). Researchers believe the longevity of the Sardinian people to be related to the lifestyle, lot of physical activity and close community ties, and diet, low protein and high carb with simple, local ingredients. It was even featured on an episode of Zac Efrons new show “Down to Earth”.
When I was a teenager, my family used to vacation in Sardinia almost every summer. We would stay on the beautiful Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) and indulge in sunshine and delicious Sardinian food.
Whether you are looking for health or flavor, let’s go on a little food tour of Sardinia! Come with me to discover Sardinian food and the best things to eat in Sardinia:
The landscape of Sardinia is quite rough, mountainous and dry, with gorgeous beaches and blue waters. Traditionally, it’s an island of shepherds, grazing their sheep on the steep hills.
The dry grass, rough terrain and free ranging life of the sheep produces one of my favorite cheeses of all time: pecorino sardo. This is not your typical factory farmed cheese. Pecorino Sardo packs a real punch. It’s savory, tangy, almost spicy. Pecorino has a similar umami flavor as Parmesan cheese, but with the addition of the specific notes of sheep milk.
The pecorino produced in Sardinia is excellent and protected as a traditional regional product. It’s produced from raw milk from a single flock of Sardinian sheep. It is then aged for six months. The recipe is said to originate in the Bronze Age! Never change a winning team, I guess 😉 Pecorino cheese is definitely one of the best things to eat in Sardinia.
Italy may be known as a wine country, but that doesn’t mean they can’t brew beer. In recent years, beer is becoming more popular in Italy, as it is in other parts of the world. The Italian culinary tradition has not been immune to the rise of the craft and microbreweries.
My all-time favorite Italian beer is the national beer of Sardinia: Birra Ichnusa. Even though Heineken Italy bought it in 1986, the beer has been brewed on Sardinia (and only Sardinia) since 1912. Their logo is even the Sardinian flag.
Ichnusa is a blond lager, making it easy to drink but more complex and interesting than most typical lagers. There are a few different varieties, but I prefer a classic. It’s the perfect beer to cool off with after a long day on the beach.
More of a wine drinker? Don’t worry, Sardinia also produces many fantastic wines. Like its signature red, Cannonau, and white, Vermentino.
One of Sardinias best known food products is pan carasau. This unique flatbread is said to have been invented by shepherds. They needed a type of bread that was light and would keep well.
Pan carasau is very thin and crispy, more like a cracker than bread. They’re made with semolina flour and rolled out super thin. The bread is then baked, sliced in half and baked again to get it really crispy and lightly charred.
It’s served in every Sardinian home and restaurants and usually eaten with dips or condiments. Pan carasau is also great to snack on, for instance while lying on the beach.
Think you know pasta? Think again! Because the typical Sardinian pasta fregola is unlike anything you’ve eaten before. That’s why it’s one of the unique things to eat in Sardinia.
Fregola dates back to the 10th century, and some believed it was derived from couscous. Which makes sense as it is made using a similar technique. It is made from semolina flour, water and salt and rolled into little balls in a terracotta pot. It’s apparently so hard to do that the skill was a dowry requirement for women!
The flavor and texture of fregola is unlike regular pasta, but equally delicious. It is usually served in a stew or broth like sauce and can be made with seafood, meat or vegetarian. Fregola with chickpeas, an example of a typical healthy Sardinian dish, that helps the people live as long as they do.
Sardinian sweets and pastries
After all those savory dishes (or before, you do you), it’s time for sweets. And sweets are something the Sardinians do well.
The speciality of Sardinia are pardulas, a type of tiny pie. The thin crispy cup is filled with a mixture of ricotta, saffron and lemon. There is also a version made with young pecorino sardo called casadinas. They were originally created for Easter, but you can buy them in bakeries and shops year-round now. Pardulas are bite size, so prepare to pop them in your mouth non-stop.
Another delicious Sardinian dessert is called seadas (sometimes sebadas). These are fried semolina dumplings filled with ricotta and lemon zest and served with honey.
So, there you go: five typical and delicious Sardinian foods that you must try when visiting the island. Which one of these things to eat in Sardinia would you try first?
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