Sardinian food: Seafood, seadas and sheep’s milk cheese

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At the time upon a time, “Italian foods” in Australia intended garlic bread, lasagne, spaghetti Bolognaise and pizza. Right now, the country’s dining landscape has advanced to a phase wherever individuals, chefs and restaurateurs alike understand that Italian foods just isn’t a one cuisine, but a selection of preferences and traditions from the country’s a lot of areas.

This diversity is mirrored in Australia: From the sunny, Sicilian cooking of Joseph Vargetto’s Mister Bianco in Melbourne, to the fortifying northern-Italian pastas and specialties served at Lulu La Delizia, the buzzy Perth trattoria owned by Ivana and Joel Valvasori-Pereza.

Among the the 1st of Australia’s dining places to drive the Italian regional cooking barrow was Sydney’s Pilu at Freshwater, a waterside eating place that zeroed in on the food of Sardinia, the Mediterranean island in which chef-proprietor Giovanni Pilu was born.

Although the notion of regional Italian cuisine is commonplace these days, this was not constantly the circumstance.

“It wasn’t a wander in the park,” remembers Pilu on opening his eponymous restaurant in 2004 with an all-Sardinian menu that starred specialties these types of as culurgiones (dumplings crammed with potato, cheese and mint that are shaped like ears of wheat) and seadas, fried pastries filled with cheese and served with honey.


Bottarga, Sardinia’s famously pungent salted and dried mullet roe, was a notably tough promote in all those early days and was mailed to Pilu by his mother from Sardinia.

“Even now, a extensive range of folks however believe that Italian food items is only lasagne and meatballs. Never get me improper, I like lasagne. It is my favorite dish. But it is not what Italian cuisine is about.”

In Sardinia’s circumstance, the food stuff is just not strictly “Italian” either. Sardinian cuisine is influenced by the Phoenicians, the Spanish, the French and various republics from pre-unification Italy, which includes historical Rome: All groups that, at many levels, dominated the Mediterranean island located 350 kilometres southwest of the mainland and just south of the French island of Corsica.

“Sardinian cuisine improvements from north to south due to the fact we’ve been colonised from two various details,” points out Fabio Concas, a different Sardinian-born chef and the operator of one particular-year-previous Perth Sardinian restaurant, Acqua e Sale. The restaurant’s title, which translates to ‘water and salt’, is a reference to both equally Sardinia staying an island and the salted h2o utilized to cook the great Sardinian pasta that Concas hand can make, which include malloredus, a toothsome, all-semolina gnocchi.

“If you go to the north from wherever Pilu is from, you will find a large amount of Spanish influences and there are even cities that discuss Spanish and Catalan. On the southern facet exactly where I’m from, we have additional Moroccan and Arabic impact in our food stuff.”

“Sardinian cuisine alterations from north to south due to the fact we have been colonised from two diverse factors.”

Contemplating Sardinia is the next-most significant island in the Mediterranean Sea, it really is not astonishing that seafood attributes prominently at Sardinian dining establishments. Zuppa di pesce, fish soup with the couscous-like fregola inherited from the island’s previous Arab rulers, is a ubiquitous menu sighting. Olbia, a coastal city in the island’s northwest, is an significant mussel escalating centre in the region, while the San Benedetto current market in the cash of Cagliari in the south is home to the island’s most crucial fish marketplace.


Inspite of the prominence of the sea and seafood to Sardinian society, Sardinians usually lived inland in the hills exactly where they would be risk-free from invaders who would arrive by means of the coast. This gave way to an agrarian, subsistence way of existence centred all around grain-increasing. Without a doubt, Sardinia is household to a wondrous array of breads together with, possibly most famously, its paper slender flatbread, pane carasau. 

Men and women also kept livestock, both of those for meat — Pilu’s suckling pig is legendary — and dairy. Sardinian cheesemakers generate hundreds of cheeses with goat’s and sheep’s cheeses these types of as pecorino amid their specialties.

Get the recipe right here.

While the Phoenicians introduced winemaking to the island, it was the Spanish that exerted the biggest influence on Sardinia’s wine. Vermentino, the island’s very best-regarded white grape, is believed to be Spanish in origin, as are the broadly-planted purple grapes, cannonau and carignano.


Like several areas, Sardinia’s cosmopolitan cooking heritage gives chefs this kind of as Concas and Pilu with abundant seams of inspiration and new dishes for individuals to find out. However, although being aware of your record is crucial for thoughtful chefs, they even now need to have to be in the second.

“Anywhere you are in the entire world, if you regard the neighborhood, seasonal components, and they are seasonal elements, you can prepare dinner excellent Italian meals,” suggests Pilu.

“It’s as straightforward as that.”

Really like the story? Follow the author here: Instagram @maxveenhuyzen.


Barbara J. Miriam

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