I spent my family holiday last summer in a beach resort in Sardinia and thought you might like to hear about some of the local specialities I tried. Sardinia is one of the larger islands off the coast of Italy – it’s actually a province of Italy, so this is about eating Italian with a local twist. The difference perhaps is that in Sardinia you only need to drive half an hour from the coast and you’re in the mountains, so it’s easy to find great seafood and more hearty country cooking within a small area.
The general rules of eating Italian apply – you get some antipasti, a primo course of pasta, a secondo course of meat or fish and then maybe a desert. However, no one really expects you to eat all the courses unless you’re at a celebration meal or a leisurely Sunday lunch, so it’s easy to mix and match.
You could have some antipasti and then a plate of pasta or a pizza, or alternatively a plate of meat or fish. Just remember that the meat and fish is usually served very simply with just a small garnish and that’s why you have the pasta – to provide the element of the meal that fills you up.
If you’re used to a fast food culture you may find the service unbelievably slow in Sardinia. You need to take a deep breath and remember it’s partly because they don’t want to ruin your enjoyment by rushing you and partly because with Mama in the kitchen and Papa at front of house they are probably massively understaffed.
And in Sardinia you always get a basket of the local crispy wafer bread called Pane Carrasau to nibble on. By the coast you’ll always get some excellent seafood and if you’re not sure what to try, then you’ll often find a mixed platter of fish on the menu. As you move inland, into the mountainous region the menu is more geared to meat. I tried a dish in red wine which I think was rabbit in a rich wine sauce – it was delicious but had so many bones. Our meals were all washed down with the local fruity red Cannonau wine.
As in Italy, the Sardinians don’t really go in for puddings, but if you’re in town you can wander across to the local gelataria to choose as many different flavoured scoops as you have room for, sometimes with a squirt of cream on top for extra holiday indulgence.
One of the Sardinian pudding specialities that I did try is called Sebada. It’s two circles of pastry enclosing a filling of soft cheese then deep fried, and covered with honey. It sounded delicious, but when I tried it it was filled with Mozzarella cheese, which was stringy and unpleasant as it cooled. I think it would have been nice with soft cheese, so I would still try it again.
If you’re in a local town, be sure to seek out those artizan bakeries where they sell lots of different styles of biscuits which you can choose a selection and pay for by weight. We found a shop where they specialised in specially decorated biscuits for weddings and other celebration. I’d have loved to buy some but the shop was closed, so I had to just take photos. You can also find various products made with the local myrtle berry in the shops such as myrtle jam and myrtle liqueur which are ideal souvenirs to bring home.
Enjoy your local fare when you visit Sardinia but just remember to relax – nothing happens in a hurry in Sardinia!
All photos by Heather on her travels on Flickr