Nothing is more exiting than breathing in the air of new land.
Even if Italy seems familiar to the point, you almost feel at home every time stepping out of the plane, Sardinia in the past has escaped our travel routes, though unrightfully so.
After a quick stop in Provence we landed in Cagliari, with full intentions of eating (drinking) our way through the island, a goal nearly achieved a good week later.
I could brag for a while how beautiful and diverse Sardinia is from white sandy beaches to rocky out of this world terrain and how with a bit of patience and willingness to travel, wild and secluded places await, but isn’t food of most interest?
For fellow travellers eager to dip fingers into local specialities I can say, there’s plenty for fish and meat lovers alike, though you’d have go deeper into the island to discover truly succulent dishes.
However, if octopus is amongst your favourites (as it happens to be with me), it can be found nearly everywhere along the coastline mostly served as antipasti with a dash of lemon juice, though once in a while it’s possible stumble on a ridiculously delicious red wine version.
I think it’s safe to call it a fish version of beouf bourgouinon, a stew rich and full of flavours, causing immediate regrets there aren’t octopus often enough for sale close to home.
Apart from fish and meat you’ll always have a side of pane carasau, typical Sardinian bread, very thin, crisp and equally addictive to bite upon and of course there are countless versions of pastas, though in my humble opinion to skip ones with bottarga (smoked mullet caviar) would be a crime.
Having travelled throughout the island I have to say that it’s a bit of a challenge tracking down places with authentic cuisine, rather been simplified for the mass of tourists and if you are there towards end of August, they literally overrun the island. Not saying that great food is hard to come by, but it does take more searching and effort.
Now, I have not taken any snaps of food while on holiday, as I was too eager to dive in and savour the plate, but I did bring back home a pack of fregola, an Israeli couscous looking like typical Sardinian pasta to recreate one of the best meals tasted during the trip.
Rolled from semolina dough and baked in the oven fregola is best in soups, stews and with rich sauces, especially when there’s seafood involved.
My humble version may not be a completely authentic Sardinian fregola dish, but it’s perfect for using up one the last season’s fresh tomatoes in a summery yet, hearty seafood pasta dish in less than 30 minutes. I think it’s one of those that could be labeled good enough for dinner party and easy enough for week night, or whenever a memory inducing dish is in order. Enjoy and have a lovely week!
- ⅔ cup fregola
- 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
- pinch of chilli flakes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 medium tomatoes, diced
- pinch of sugar
- ½ cup vegetable of fish stock
- 9 oz/ 250 grams mussels, cleaned
- 9 oz/250 grams prawns, shells on
- Cook fregola in salted boiling water for 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- While fregola is cooking start on the sauce, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion for 2-3 minutes.
- Add garlic, 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and continue to cook for another few minutes.
- Add chilli flakes, tomato pastes and stir to coat.
- Finally tip in diced tomatoes and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and let it cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat.
- Next, add the pre-cooked fregola top with stock and scatted shrimps and mussels on top.
- Cover and let it cook for 3-4 minutes, till the mussels have opened.
- Then cook for a few more minutes to reduce the sauce. Taste to check if pasta is cooked and adjust the seasoning; take off the heat.
- Sprinkle with extra parsley and serve.