It’s a bit of an understatement to say that Sardinia is more than just “good eats.” The region is brimming with breathtaking scenery, charming towns, and easy-to-love people, making for what has been dubbed “the Italian Riviera” (or the Costa Smeralda).
It may be small in land mass compared to other parts of Italy, but don’t let this deter you from discovering Sardinia—there is so much to do on this island and so many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Sardinia has quite a few differences from the rest of Italy. Food-wise, it’s all about seafood and olive oil. Seafood is abundant in this region, with dozens of unique varieties of fish living in the waters surrounding Sardinia (more about that later).
Olive oil — made from olives grown on trees that are more than 400 years old — is also a staple Sardinian food, which is why most people here either know how to cook with them or eat them straight out of the bottle with bread or pasta.
Best Sardinian Food
Fregula With Saffron
A classic Sardinian pasta dish called fregola, which translates to “breadcrumbs,” is comprised of semolina and formed into tiny balls. There are several ways to prepare fregola, but a seafood version with clams and prawns served with a saffron broth and a piece of crusty bread is unquestionably the most delectable.
Not everyone knows that Sardinia is one of Italy’s top saffron-producing regions. This exquisite and costly spice, which has a deep red color, is used in many traditional Sardinian meals.
It is frequently referred to as the “red gold” of Sardinia since it takes a long time to gather and dry its tiny threads and costs nearly as much as gold.
During November, when saffron is harvested, the lilac blossoms also give off a stunning lilac color that is hard to describe.
A traditional dish of Gallura, the northern region of Sardinia that stretches from Badesi to San Teodoro and contains some of the most beautiful beaches in the country as well as some enchanting islands and islets, is Zuppa Gallurese.
Zuppa doesn’t technically qualify as a soup even though it’s prepared with broth. Similar to lasagna, it has a thick consistency. The dish is made up of baked bread pieces (of several types of bread), cheese, and lamb broth. Delicious!
Spaghetti with Sea Urchin
Anyone who likes raw seafood will adore this dish. When the “Ricci di mare” season is open, this dish should be tasted from November to April.
In order to safeguard this species, taking sea urchins during other times of the year is prohibited, and each fisherman is only permitted to take a certain quantity of sea urchins.
Snails have a long history of being prepared in Sardinia, particularly in the north of Sassari, the island’s third-largest city, where regional cuisine predominates.
Snails are served here in various ways, although they are most frequently cooked in a hot tomato sauce or fried with garlic, parsley, and breadcrumbs.
Roasted Suckling Pig
Sardinia has a long, rich history of sheepherding and pastoralism. As part of this tradition, the island’s shepherds would roast small suckling pigs (called coppa) over an earthen pit piled with aromatic wild rosemary.
Today it is more popular to prepare the pig spit-roasted for about seven hours to soften the meat and crisp the skin. Once roasted, it is covered with myrtle leaves and served slightly warm or at room temperature.
Malloreddus alla Campidanese
Malloreddus alla Campidanese is a traditional Sardinian pasta dish made with semolina flour, which gives the gnocchi their characteristic toothsome bite.
This dish is distinct from muddarizzla (pasta) because of its size (it’s called “gnocchi” because it resembles little potato dumplings) and because it’s made with durum wheat, making it lighter than regular pasta. But that’s not all.
The dish has additional flavors, including pork sausage, tomatoes, and grated pecorino Sardo cheese.
Seadas / Sebadas
When you are craving something sweet in Sardinia, you must try Seadas. These are giant, deep-fried semolina dumplings filled with fresh sour pecorino cheese and lemon zest and traditionally served with bitter Miele amaro (also known as corbezzolo, or arbutus’ honey). A sweet Sardinian Food for any occasion.
The sweetness of Seadas contrasts nicely with the bitterness of Miele, which is found in their filling. This is perfect to pair with a glass of local red wine from grapes grown near the cities!
The popularity of lobster stew, a traditional dish in that region of Spain, demonstrates the Catalan influence on Sardinian food (especially in the Northwestern region of Alghero).
The preparation is straightforward: Female lobsters with their crimson roe are rapidly boiled before being served with a tomato-onion sauce and a speedy emulsion of olive oil, lemon, and black pepper.
A thin, crunchy white bread that can be prepared into two different shapes and is shaped like a person is called pane carasau, also known as music paper. It is cooked in the Pane Guttiau oven and served with cheese or salt-seasoned oil and broth.
Pane Carasau can also be eaten with cheese and meat when seasoned with salt and oil and baked. This dish is known as Pane Guttiau.
It is referred to as Pane Fratau when served with tomato sauce, broth, and a poached egg. When creating lasagna, it can also be used in place of spaghetti sheets.
Pecora in Cappotto
The national food of the Sardinian islands is this hearty mutton stew, prepared with potatoes, wild herbs, and rich broth.
The phrase “sheep in a coat” refers to a pastoral custom of leaving the oldest sheep in the herd unshorn during the yearly sheep-shearing feast.
Currently, Sardinian chefs are reclaiming mutton as a delicacy, and you can find it in contemporary versions of tartare, ragu, and even sheep’s milk ricotta panna cotta.
In the Mediterranean, bottarga is prized, and Sardinia is no exception. With grated bottarga on top, spaghetti is a typical dish on the island made from dried mullet fish roe. It can also be eaten on its own, sliced into large, thick chunks, and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.
Additionally, bottarga has established itself as a must-try during the annual Pesciada festival in Cagliari in late May.
Grated or sliced into flakes, these salted, dried mullet eggs are served on bruschetta, spaghetti, and salads. Bottarga’s strong, savory flavor is amplified when mixed with butter and lemon.
The phrase “Quinto quarto” (translated as “the fifth quarter”) refers to all the offal and off-cut meats that were formerly revered in Sardinia. Unfortunately, many of these traditional dishes are now slowly vanishing.
A unique Sardinian food worth saving? Cordula, also known as roasted lamb intestines. Slow-cooking the meat for hours softens the middle and crisps the outside, and eating with your hands is encouraged.
Intestines can also be simply cooked with fresh peas or in a dish called trattalia, created with spit-roasted heart, lungs, and liver and served with sliced bread.
If you’ve never tasted Burrida, you’re in for a treat. The main ingredient in Burrida is gattuccio, a small variety of catfish that was historically considered a low-cost scrap fish.
Imagine a dish similar to macaroni and cheese but made with tiny fish. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? That’s right! This is at least the case for those preparing Burrida in Sardinia as an appetizer or dinner.
Burrida’s most interesting aspect is how its different ingredients combine to make it.
Finely chopped walnuts and the fish’s liver are added to a vinegar-based sauce before the fish is slowly cooked. It’s typically served as an appetizer in Cagliari, the Sardinian capital city.
This treasured citrus fruit, wrinkled and yellow, is only grown in the Siniscola district of Sicily’s northeast coast.
The pulp and rind of this species have been used to manufacture Pompia, a great digestive liqueur.
Many eateries serve it combined with freshly made bread, although it is also available in more upmarket locations. A classic amongst Sardinian Food.
Malloreddus, also known as Sardinian gnocchi, are often made from semolina flour, water, or milk. They resemble small striped shells.
They are typical of Italy’s eastern region, the Medio Campidan area, but are now widely available throughout the country.
Pecorino cheese, tomato sauce, sausage, and saffron are common accompaniments.
Sardinian Food: Summary
Sardinia never ceases to fascinate on all fronts, and the delicacies of Sardinia are intrinsically intriguing.
Given that it is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean, it is natural to think that fish is at the forefront of the gastronomic culture. So, if you are a seafood lover, you will most certainly love the beautiful cuisine Sardinia offers!
Visiting other destinations in Italy? Check out our other guides:
- Florence Italy Foodie Guide: The Best Things To Do In 1 Day
- 10 Best Trento Restaurants
- The 17 Best Michelin Star Restaurants In Rome
Travel writer and owner of the blog. My work has been featured on Fodors, Eater.com, International Living, and Great Escape Publishing, among many others. My story? Nearly six years ago, I left my job at an Oklahoma City law firm and embarked on a journey around the world. At the time, I thought I would only be gone for 6 months, but the more I traveled, the longer my bucket list became. Flashpacker describes how I travel. Rather than traveling as the normal world wise backpacker and staying in hostel dorms, I prefer a more comfortable experience, and typically stay in private rooms, take Ubers instead of taxis, and now use a suitcase instead of a backpack. Foodie, on the other hand, describes one of the key reasons why I travel. I love to pick a central “base camp” and then explore the surrounding area, really immersing myself in the culture and interacting with the people, and enjoying and exploring the food of an area is an essential part of this experience.