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Among all the Italian regions, Sardinia undoubtedly boasts one of the strongest gastronomic identities, thanks in part to its island geography and convenient separation from mainland influence, but also due to its great attachment to tradition and history. This makes the picturesque island an idyllic escape for city dwellers, as well as being a great place to tuck into traditional Sardinian food.
Typical Sardinian food is loved by both Italians and non-Italians alike, with a few specialities being successfully exported further afield, most notably Sardinian cheese. The region boasts the largest production of sheep cheeses in Europe, thanks to the large presence of indigenous sheep (a native breed) and their milk.
However, it's not just pecorino you'll find in Sardinia; here are ten typical specialities, including cold cuts and baked goods, to try on a visit to the Mediterranean island.
1. Pecorino Fiore Sardo
Protected by both the Slow Food Presidium and the European PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) system under European Union law, this is a typical hard cheese made from whole sheep's milk. It takes an average of six months to mature, by which time it presents a dark yellow or brownish crust. The flavour becomes spicier the longer the cheese is aged.
2. CAGLIU (CALLU DE CRABETTU)
One of the oldest cheeses in Sardinia, this unusual cheese is obtained from a kid with a rumen full of milk. After the kid is slaughtered the rumen filled with milk is then hung and dried inside the stomach wall, which also serves well as the rind on the finished cheese.
3. Pecorino Sardo
Pecorino Sardo DOP is one of the region's most widely known cheeses outside of Italy. It's made with pasteurised Sardinian sheep's milk with a technique that dates right back to 1700. It comes in many variations, but European legislation of PDO dictates that the authentic cheese must only be made with Sardinian sheep's milk.
4. Casu Martzu
A typical cheese from Sardinia and Corsica, it also has the slightly alarming name of the cheese with worms. Actually Casu Martzu is the goat that is colonised by dairy fly larvae, whose eggs then hatch into larvae that feed on the cheese. Only when the cream and larvae ratio is two to one can the cheese be consumed, along with the worms.
5. Proscuitto di Pecorino
This typical Sardinian cured meat made from mutton is produced from the best breed of Sardinian sheep's legs. The whole ham is recognisable by its elongated pear shape and strong but sweet flavour.
6. Pane Caresau (Caresau bread)
The large thin and crispy sheets of carasau bread can now be commonly found in most Italian supermarkets. Also known as Carasatu, or Crasau, the typical Sardinian bread, which can be up to half a metre wide, is made from yeast, salt, water and wheat flour and can be found on the table at most mealtimes.
7. Pane Cocci
This decorated bread made from durum wheat and semolina was once just prepared for special events like weddings, although now it's easy to find year round. It is often baked in a round shape with a golden crust and further decorated with an egg baked inside.
8. Sardinian Prickly Artichoke DOP
Compared to standard artichoke, the Sardinian prickly artichoke is distinguished by its conical compact head and and shades of purple. The taste is full bodied with a sweet edge and often enjoyed by Sardinians with salad and lamb.
Photo: FB/Sa pompia
The Slow Food Presidium protected citrus fruit of 'pompia' is mostly used in sweets and liqueurs. It grows easily in several areas including Alta Baronia. While the tree looks like a cedar, its origins are still unknown. The citrus is also enjoyed in a traditional wedding dessert that requires lengthy preparation.
10. Bottarga di Muggine
Sold both whole or ground in a jar, bottarga is obtained from the salting and drying of mullet roe. It is eaten raw or sliced and grated as a condiment either with antipasto or on delicious seafood pasta.
Hungry for more: Learn all about traditional Sicilian foods.