Cook like a local: Sardinia
Try pasta with clams and bottarga, cured meats flavoured with fennel, and honey-drizzled cheese pastries on this rustic, wild-edged Italian island
Want to learn about Sardinian food? Looking for Sardinian recipes? Read Letitia Clark’s guide.
Letitia Clark is a chef, illustrator and food writer. A Leiths School of Food and Wine graduate, she quit working at London’s top restaurants for a quieter life in Sardinia. Her first book Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia (£26, Hardie Grant) is out now.
Sardinia remains one of Europe’s least explored culinary destinations. But in mainland Italy at least, the island’s food is famed for its freshness and simplicity, and for its focus on the finest ingredients, which are either grown on the island or fished from the turquoise waters that surround it. Expect fruits and vegetables that burst with the taste of the Mediterranean sun; shellfish so fresh it shimmers; an endless variety of deliciously nutty and smoky cheeses; cured meats flavoured with fennel; and a selection of typical dolci extensive enough to exhaust even the sweetest tooth.
Sardinia is truly a place where time stands still, and almost everything is made at home by small-scale producers who use traditional methods. Eating is taken very seriously – meals consume the best part of most days, accompanied as they are by fruity, full-bodied red wines or deliciously crisp vermentinos. Peppery local olive oil flows freely, and unique breads and pastas form a major part of the diet, too. Sardinians are renowned for their long lives, which is attributed to their relaxed lifestyle and excellent diet. So when you visit this beautiful island, you can eat and drink in the Mediterranean sunshine all day, knowing that it really is good for you.
Sardinian recipe: watermelon granita
Letitia says, "There are only so many times you can serve iced, sliced watermelon to your guests during high summer in Sardinia. It’s all anybody really wants to eat but it does become a bit monotonous. This granita is as refreshing (if not more so) and delicious as a chilled slice of watermelon, and only a little more effort. I like it very sharp so tend to add lots of lemon but you may want to adjust depending on the sweetness of your melon (and palate)."
What to eat in Sardinia
Also known as carta di musica, this semolina flour-based crispbread is still made by hand and cooked in wood-fired ovens. Served at every meal, it’s the perfect vehicle for olive oil, tomatoes, salami, or just about anything you fancy. It’s also often soaked in broth and eaten in soup, alongside plenty of grated cheese.
Malloreddus alla campidanese
Rich, meaty and packed with herbs and tomatoes, this Sardinian sausage ragu comes with an exotic whiff of saffron. Served with the island’s famous pasta shape (little ridged nuggets called malloreddus), it’s a must-try.
Cheese encased in pastry and deep-fried until golden and crisp, then served with a generous drizzle of local honey. Desserts don’t get much better (or simpler) than this.
Pasta with clams and bottarga
Everybody loves spaghetti with clams, right? Well, imagine an even better version. The delicious sea-saltiness of the island’s bottarga (cured mullet roe) is added to the dish to give it extra oomph.
Any pasta lover will be unable to resist these plump, ravioli-like parcels of potato and cheese. Made by hand, they are a beautiful pleated shape, and unique to Sardinia.
Words by Letitia Clark, photographs by Matt Russell. Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia (£26, Hardie Grant) is out now.