A campervan journey in search of typical dishes and local delicacies of the
traditional Sardinian food!
One of the pleasures of the trip is to taste the typical products and dishes of the traditional cuisine of the place you are visiting. And when you travel to Italy, there are plenty of opportunities. Each region can boast of its own top recipes and Sardinia is no exception. Traditional Sardinian food boasts ancient origins, linked to the culture and economy of its territory. It therefore is no coincidence that you will find dishes related to sheep farming in Barbagia, peasant culture in Gallura and recipes mainly based on fish in the area of Carloforte. It is impossible to draw up a list of the best dishes, you should really taste them all! And it’s not impossible.
Renting a campervan and going on a long gastronomic tour around the island is an original way to discover traditional Sardinian food. You will have the rare privilege of being able to taste the typical dishes right in the area they were born in.
Imagine that you have just landed in Cagliari and are ready to leave. Get in your campervan and spread the map on the dashboard. But, before venturing along the winding streets of Sardinia, stop to eat: you don’t want to miss Cagliari’s specialties!
Cagliari: the sea on the table
The Sardinian capital overlooks the sea and it therefore is no coincidence that its cuisine offers tasty fish dishes, whose origins are lost in the mists of time. Here, you can taste Fregula, a type of pasta, very similar to couscous. Generally served with clams, it can also be seasoned with sauce or flavoured with salted ricotta. You won’t find Spaghitus Cun Arritzonis all year round: these spaghetti are seasoned with sea urchins, so you will only find them when they are allowed to be fished.
Sa Burrida in Sa Casteddaia, despite being a poor dish, now also is on the menus of the most fashionable places. Based on dogfish, stewed cooking enhances the flavor of the fish, enhanced by garlic, parsley and walnuts. Among the first city dishes, if you aren’t a lover of fish, you can taste Malloreddus a Sa Campidanesa, the typical Sardinian gnocchi flavored with tomato sauce, pork sausage and Sardinian pecorino cheese. Among the main courses, it is worth trying Sa Cassola, a soup with fish, shellfish and crustaceans as well as Aligusta a Sa Casteddaia, the queen of Cagliari’s table. Seasoned with bay leaves, parsley, onion, celery and white vinegar, lobster is a typical dish of the city.
But now it’s time to get back in your camper and head north towards Ogliastra!
Ogliastra: ancient recipes for modern palates
A purely pastoral and peasant vocation, the cuisine of the area perfectly reflects the customs and traditions of its people. Ogliastra’s dishes recall the ancient peasant knowledge and are, in fact, based on so-called poor ingredients, but with a strong flavor. Culurgiones are a typical recipe of Ogliastra: it is a sort of ravioli stuffed with potatoes, garlic, mint and fresh pecorino cheese that are seasoned with plenty of tomato sauce and a sprinkling of grated pecorino cheese.
The traditional main courses are all meat-based: pork, the renowned Su Porcheddu, but also lamb and goat, to emphasize the ancient link with the activity of shepherds. Poor dishes for strong palates, the second courses in the area also include recipes with innards and very tasty cheeses.
As soon as you’re finished digesting, you can get back to driving your campervan: it’s time to reach the central northern part of the island!
Nuoro and Gallura: the ancient agro-pastoral cuisine
These two provinces enhance the rural culture of the inhabitants of the area. The gastronomic tradition above all is linked above all to the land and you will notice it as soon as you sit down at the table: cold cuts, cheeses, olives and vegetables in oil will appear as if by magic. Together with the water, you will be served a good bottle of Cannonau, the fine wine of the island, whose grapes are native to these parts. Among the first courses stands out the Frattau Bread, which consists of layers and layers of Carasau Bread seasoned with tomato sauce, pecorino cheese and a nice poached egg.
Take a break and look for a farm: you will not don’t want to miss the typical roast pig, which after 5 hours of cooking, ensures tender and tasty meats. In Olbia, you can return to eating fish: the numerous mussel farms ensure an excellent dressing for spaghetti, otherwise seasoned with sea urchins.
Take a coffee and get back behind the wheel of your campervan: head towards Sassari.
Sassari: meat and vegetables
Here, the peasant tradition also has a strong influence on the culinary customs of the area. Gioggia Minuda, the snail, is the main ingredient of a typical dish of Sassari and is usually flavored with garlic and chili. If it’s not for you, don’t worry: you can fold up on Favata, a soup made with dried broad beans, pork, lard and vegetables. Served on a bed of toasted bread, it is an excellent interpretation of its role as a poor dish of the peasant cuisine of the past.
If you’re near Alghero, point to the Agliata, a sauce made from dried tomatoes, parsley, chili, vinegar and lots of garlic. A diamond point of the local fishermen’s kitchen, it is used to season fish, previously fried or boiled.
Next stop, Oristano.
Oristano: the kingdom of the bottarga
The province of Oristano is rich in gentle hills that gently slope towards the coast. Maybe that’s why, by putting yourself at the table, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the variety of fish-based recipes and the quality of the wines. Mullet occupies a prominent place in Oristano cuisine and is the basis of the most traditional dish of this area, Sa Merca, but, above all, is at the origin of the true queen of the table: the bottarga.
Particularly famous is the bottarga of Cabras, where in September, the mullets are caught directly from the lagoon. Grated on pasta or cut into slices and eaten with artichokes or asparagus, it is considered a unique delicacy, for which it’s really worth paying this place a visit.
Last effort: get back in the campervan and head south.
Carloforte: the strange embrace between Liguria and Maghreb
At the south-western tip of the island, the typical Ligurian cuisine meets and blends harmoniously with the oldest recipes of the Maghreb. The old Ligurian fishermen, who moved here after their stay in Tunisia, imported a large part of their culinary tradition to this area of Sardinia, giving rise to an unlikely Sardinian-ligure-Tunisian cuisine. Unlikely, but incredibly appetizing. Tuna, abundant in the seas surrounding Carloforte, dominates the tables of restaurants and private homes. Cooked in every possible way, the tuna “alla calafortina“, however, has an extra gear: first fried, then browned in wine and vinegar, gives the suggestion of the most genuine flavors.
We have not talked about desserts, but you will find those easily throughout Sardinia. Often based on honey, Traditional Sardinian desserts skillfully mix eggs and flour with almonds and fruit. Perfect at the end of a meal, accompanied by a bitter, and ideal while sipping a coffee.
One last piece of advice: sit at the sea and enjoy a quiet Seada, the traditional Sardinian dessert par excellence. Small puffs of semolina pasta, filled with cheese, fried and wrapped in honey. A mix of flavors from ancient origins that will keep you company during your return journey.