When it comes to making holiday plans, what takes precedence at the top of your list of must-haves? If you want a blend of sunshine, culture, history and food then one place that can go straight to number one is Sardinia! Holidays to the second largest island in the Mediterranean will give you all that and more.
With a UNESCO World Heritage Site, fascinating ancient ruins and more culture than you can shake a stick at, visiting this lovely Italian island will also open your eyes to the incredible cuisine of the region. While Italian food is renowned the world over, many things you'll find on the menu here are unique to the island.
It's been said that if you took pasta away from Italy you would destroy much of its cuisine. While that's actually not true at all and the country has far more to offer than spaghetti bolognaise, this is perhaps even more borne out in Sardinia. Holidays here will give you a taste of a cuisine with far reaching influences, however, it must be said that the pasta is, indeed, very good! The Malloreddus is a distinctive conch-shaped pasta that originated on the island. This unique pasta is made with semolina and saffron, and the shape – curled in on itself with ridges along the outside – is created by the dough being rolled out on wicker baskets. Try it with the traditional sausage sauce and pecorino cheese. You should also keep an eye out for the Fregola pasta, another one unique to the island, which is made into tiny balls (similar to Israeli couscous) and usually served with tomato sauce and clams.
When it comes to the breads of Italy, each region has its own unique take – and in fact on Sardinia, it's said that each village has its own recipe. An important staple here, one variation you should try to start with is a simple shepherd's bread – the Pane Carasau. Made from wheat flour, salt, yeast and water, the bread is a double baked flat version that resembles a cracker. In the old days, its longevity meant it could be taken up into the hills as shepherd's tended their flock. Said to be named after a Roman soldier, the Cuvraxiu bread is a larger, salted style, which is very popular with the locals. It is circular with a crunchy crust and soft interior. For special occasions, the Kokkoi bread makes an appearance. It is worked until it is very white and can then be molded into different shapes to match the events for which it is created.
The one food you simply can't ignore are the fabulous cheeses or Sardinia. Holidays to any part of the island will introduce you to varieties that are hard, if not impossible, to find elsewhere. If you feel brave and experimental, you may want to try the Casu Marzu, more commonly known as 'maggot cheese'. This sheep cheese is a specialty of the island and derives from a pecorino base that has maggots introduced to enhance the decomposition. The end result is a soft (supposedly delicious) delicacy, which is only eaten while the maggots are still alive. If that turns your stomach, then instead you may want to sample the earlier version of the Casu Marzu, which is the Pecorino Romano or the Pecorino Sardo. Both are made from sheep's milk and are among the oldest cheeses in the world.