Italy's rich tradition of ingeniously thrifty cooking by the rural poor is legendary today. Many of the western world's favourite dishes originated from the creative necessity of our frugal Italian ancestors, including pizza, pesto, polenta, minestrone soup, pomodoro sauce, and of course, pasta. In feudal Italy, meat was only really available to wealthy landowners, so grains were an essential part of the diet, as well as vegetables, pulses and occasionally offal. Pasta's ability to be dried and stored, then quickly rehydrated as the base of a hearty and satisfying meal, ensured it become one of the most popular foodstuffs. Sardinia's traditional pasta – fregola and malloreddus – are part of the fabric of the island's history. By lovingly keeping these traditions alive, artisan producers like I Cagliaritani let us experience the ancient soul of the island.
There are five recognised 'blue zones' around the world – areas where a higher number of people live much longer than average as a direct result of their lifestyle and outlook. The eastern provinces of Sardinia was the first blue zones ever to be identified, and still holds the record for the number of centenarians in the world. Food is a key component in making Sardinia the original 'blue zone'. Grains and legumes constitute a high proportion of the diet in Sardinia, and rustic pastas made from locally grown wheat are the basis of so many of the island's dishes. Just reading the ingredients of the classic Sardinian dish fregola con le arselle, you instantly feel more healthy and heartened. Using a traditional fregola like I Cagliaritani's, the rustic pasta is served in a slow-cooked broth with clams, tomatoes, parsley, garlic and a hint of chillies.
Sardinia is a unique place – anyone who visits will tell you that. If you're looking to experience its incredible artisan food and drink traditions, I Cagliaritani's pasta is one of the easiest and best ways to do this. I Cagliaritani produce numerous versions of the island's two most famous pastas. Fregola are rough hewn little balls made of durum wheat semolina, toasted after drying to give them a lovely wholesome nuttiness. Fregola dates back to the 10th century, an age long before the pasta shapes we know today. Reminiscent of couscous, fregola adds depth to soups and seafood dishes, and a rustic sophistication to simple bowls of broth. Sardinia's other traditional pasta is malloreddus, aka gnocchetti sardi or ‘little Sardinian gnocchi’. They aren't gnocchi, however, they just look a bit like it with their thick, rounded shape and scored back, which is said to resemble a calf's belly. Malloreddus is a hearty, 'grippy' pasta, traditionally served at special festive meals and most often paired with the fabulous campidanese sauce of pork sausage, tomatoes and saffron.