This is an excerpt from the book “Sardinia”.
Sardinian food: Bottarga (mullet roe), also known as Sardinian caviar, is considered one of the most authentic, delicious examples of the island’s gastronomic tradition. Bottarga is made from mullet eggs, which are carefully extracted from the fish, with great care being taken to avoid rupturing the sacks that hold them. Similar to tuna roe, but with a more delicate flavor, bottarga is often served in fine slices, alongside slices of celery drizzled with good olive oil. Combining bottarga with artichoke hearts is another popular way of serving it, poetically uniting two Sardinian food products from the land and the sea.
The heritage of preserving seafood and farming the nutrient rich sea salt of the tidal marshes to preserve that seafood is maintained to this day especially in Sicily and Sardinia. Fishermen from Sardinia bring the tradition of air-cured tuna and flavorful sea salt to the rest of the world, the most renowned is their bottarga, mullet roe sardinia.
Once known as the poor man’s caviar bottarga is the salted, pressed and dried roe of either the tuna (tonno) or gray mullet (mugine). It is a specialty of both Sardinia and Sicily. The long, fat roe sack is salted and massaged by hand over several weeks to eliminate air pockets. The mullet roe is then pressed using wooden planks and stone or marble weights.The bottarga is then sun dried for one to two months.
While some think that this practice of preserving the tuna or mullet roe is the legacy of the Byzantines, the practice actually goes farther back to ancient and possibly even pre-historic times. The same process is used in Turkey, Egypt, and even coastal areas of Asia.
Tuna bottarga has a lively, salty, sharp flavor, stronger than gray mullet bottarga. Bottarga is shaved, sliced, chopped or grated, and just a little can provide a ton of flavor to a whole host of dishes. The most popular dish in the Sardegna food tradition is Spaghittus cun bottariga (Spaghetti with Bottarga), or linguine con bottarga, made with grated or finely chopped bottarga, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and chopped parsley, simple but delicious.
Top a salad of bitter greens with shaved bottarga, or grate it into your rice congee for a more flavorful breakfast. Bottarga should be kept in the fridge to maintain its flavor.
Not to forget in the Sardinian food list are the traditional breads of Sardinia that tend to be hard and dry, and prepared only once a week. Pane carasau, a crisp, very thin bread that is made from durum wheat semolina and wheat flour, can keep for weeks at a time due to its very low water content; traditionally, it was the bread that shepherds and herdsmen could carry with them during their months in the mountains. In recent years, this bread has increasingly been called carta da musica by visitors from the mainland, because it resembles sheets of parchment-like music manuscript paper.
The quintessential pasta of Sardegna is malloreddus, a small gnocchi made from durum wheat semolina, salt and water, and given its distinctive yellow color by the addition of saffron. Small pieces of the pasta dough are rolled across thin wires or a ridged board to give them their characteristic ridged surface. Malloreddus are traditionally served with a simple tomato sauce, a hearty lamb or sausage ragu, or with butter and grated pecorino cheese.
Sardinia typical foods:
Agnello con finocchietti: baby lamb stewed with onion, tomato and wild fennel.
Aragosta arrosto: rock lobster split in half and pan roasted with olive oil, lemon, parsley and breadcrumbs.
Burrida: soup or chowder often based on shark meat, though recipes vary from port to port.
Cassouela: as many as a dozen types of fish, mollusks and crustaceans are cooked with tomato and spices in this piquant soup.
Culingiones: ravioli with a pecorino-chard filling dressed with tomato sauce, though many variations include a sweet version with almonds.
Favata: stew of dried fava beans with tomato, cardoons, wild fennel, sausage and salt pork.
Fregula or succu tundu: lumpy semolino is the base of thick soups that usually include onions, salt pork and grated pecorino.
Gallina al mirto: boiled hen left to marinate for a day or two with myrtle berries and leaves and eaten cold.
Malloreddus: tiny gnocchi of semolino (also called maccarones cravaos or ciciones) with sausage and tomato sauce that includes garlic, basil, a hint of saffron and grated pecorino.
Pabassinas: pastries topped with a paste of raisins and walnuts; papassinus are similar though the paste also includes aniseed, cloves and cinnamon.
Pane fratau: carta da musica softened in hot water, spread with tomato sauce topped with grated caciocavallo and a poached egg; a summer dish of the Barbagia.
Sa corda or cordula: lamb or kid intestines stewed with onion, tomatoes, peas; the meat may also be spit roasted or grilled.
Sebadas or seadas: sweet focaccia baked with pecorino and bitter honey from blossoms of corbezzolo (the strawberry tree).
Su farru: soup of farro (barley-like grain) cooked in beef broth with cheese and dried mint.