In this series, we look more closely at a lesser-known region of Italy in every issue. As consumers continue to clamor for authentic, regional foods from Italy, it pays to be a step ahead! This month, we travel to the Italian islands and to the region of Sardinia.
Sardinia located off the coast of south-central Italy, an isolated, windswept island with a long history in Mediterranean culture. Its climate is classically Mediterranean; mild and warm, and surrounded by crystal-clear waters, but with a rugged, mountainous geography. The cuisine is rustic, built from generations of shepherds with lamb, game and wild pig as the primary proteins, along with the bounty of the sea. Tuna and mullet are the main fish species, and it’s the latter that gives us Sardinia’s most famous export – the cured roe of mullet, better known as bottarga.
This dish from Barilla Chef Lorenzo Boni celebrates bottarga and the rich, simple pasta dishes of Sardinia, a spaghetti with bottarga sauce and shaved bottarga. By whisking the bottarga into an emulsion with pasta cooking water, you get a rich, smooth and creamy sauce that explodes with the flavors of the sea.
When it comes to pasta in Sardinia, the signature shape is malloreddus, also known as gnochetti sardi. Malloreddus comes from a Sardinian dialect for “little bulls,” and show up with all sorts of sauces, from meat sauces to seafood. Fregola, also known as Israeli couscous, is also typical.
La Ciccia in San Francisco has some of the most authentic menu items, especially in their seafood and pasta dishes, even using Sardinian dialect on the menu, like the “Fregua cun su Nieddu de Seppia” – Sardinian Fregola with Seafood, Citrus Zest and Squid Ink.
Arco Café in New York features the malloreddus prominently in an array of menu items. DOC wine bar, also in New York, features the region’s rosemary-scented flatbread, Pane Carasau, and the fregola, with the option to add bottarga to any pasta dish for $3.