Barbagia, Supramonte and Mandrolisai
Crossing the province of Nuoro from Gallura, we arrive in the heart of Barbagia. This area has many full-bodied red wines produced with Cannonau grapes: a vine that from the time of Spanish domination has found in Sardinia the ideal habitat for expressing its maximum quality. We find the famous Nepente di Oliena, even praised by the teetotaller D’Annunzio in his treatise Hostaria, as well as the other Dorgali Cannonaus, ideal with sharp cheese and roasts. The “Cannonau Route” continues with a stop in the area around Sorgono, home of Mandrolisai red wine, a well-known product of the area whose name it bears and equally deserving of consideration and safeguarding.
This area provides pleasant culinary surprises. Some characteristic dishes are: su pani carasau, a type of bread consisting of thin, round, crunchy layers, prepared to last for months and used by shepherds while moving from one pasture to another; su pani frattau, pane carasau softened with hot broth and served with a tomato sauce, grated Pecorino cheese and poached eggs. Among the delicious roasts, we find sa cordula e sa trattalia; the former is prepared by wrapping animal innards (almost always lamb or kid) in the intestinal lining and tying it with the intestines themselves. Sa trattalia is prepared with the animal’s liver, sweetbreads, heart and spleen, wrapped in a layer of fat (sa nappa) and tied using the intestines; la pecora in cappotto, boiled sheep with potatoes, onions, celery and dried tomatoes; sa moddizzosu, a very soft bread made of durum wheat bran; roast kid, lamb or piglet; su pan’e sapa (or papassinu), a traditional sweet made of concentrated must, nuts, pine-seeds, almonds, honey and raisins, found in different forms all over the island. It was offered to guests on All Saints’ Day and to commemorate the dead; sas spianadas, a typical bread baked and eaten during seasonal labour or on holidays. Round, soft and easy to carry, it is eaten alone, with sausage or as canapés with bottarga and tomato; su filindeu, durum wheat bran pasta typical of Lula, which is broken up and cooked in sheep’s broth with small pieces of fresh Pecorino cheese; su zurrette, blood sausage from sheep cooked in boiling water or over charcoal, inside the sheep’s stomach. Another typical shepherd’s dish is the sebada: fresh cheese mixed with bran and lemon peel inside a thin layer of pastry made with lard. Round with notches, it is fried in olive oil and then covered with cane-apple honey.
Typical dishes in Nuoro are: maccarrones furriaos with a sauce of fresh, slightly acidic cheese melted in a double saucepan; minestra di merca, a special salty cheese with pasta and potatoes; s’aranzada, a sweet made of orange peel, almonds and honey that is offered to godparents as torradura or repayment for their gift; sas caschettas, a sweet offered to brides on their wedding day: it consists of a thin layer of pastry filled with honey, cinnamon, toasted hazelnuts and orange peel.
Other typical sweets are the crumbly, very sweet bianchittos, common all over Sardinia: small meringues made with beaten egg whites, sugar, toasted almonds and lemon peel. The most typical sweet at Sardinian village festivals is torrone: prepared with almonds, honey and egg white, it is softer than other Italian torrones and distinguished by its intense honey fragrance. Some of the best comes from Tonara, Desulo and Pattada, while in Oristano province the one from Ales is excellent. At Tonara, the Torrone Festival takes place on April 22-25, with sampling of wine, sweets and typical dishes.
Continuing along the Orientale Sarda, we enter Sarrabus. We are still in Cannonau territory and can stop to taste the local wine, Capo Ferrato, coming from vineyards in the towns of Muravera, San Vito, Villaputzu and Villasimius.