Sardinian and Sicilian dishes offer some of the best examples of Mediterranean cuisine in Italy. While it may be tempting to think of the food from these islands as strictly Italian, the local cuisine has developed its own flavor.
Tomatoes are incorporated into a classic Mediterranean diet for their high levels of antioxidants. Italians use two different kinds of tomatoes: the big, round varieties used in salads, and Roma tomatoes, the small oblong tomatoes used for cooking. Olives are another common fruit. Italians eat them whole, incorporate them into meals and press them for oil.
Artichokes are a popular Italian vegetable, as are asparagus, beets, cabbage and roots like onions and potatoes. Italian cooking also makes use of a variety of herbs, including basil, garlic and parsley. Most are used as garnishes on the main meal, and each has its own subtleties. For example, basil can make a dish peppery or sweet.
The people of Sardinia enjoy extended life spans, as the island has one of the higher life-expectancy rates in the world. This phenomenon is attributed in part to the easy-going lifestyle Sardinians enjoy, but also to the food. Sardinia, which is next to Corsica, has an abundance of seafood, and a healthy fish-based diet that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Cioppino is a seafood stew that Sardinians favor, while bottarga, a smoked mullet caviar, is one of the region’s main exports. Other types of fish caught locally are anchovies, dogfish and sardines, which take their name from this region.
The Mediterranean diet incorporates cheese and other dairy in moderation. Pecorino, a famous cheese made in Sardinia and Corsica, is made from sheep’s milk and exported to grocers all over the world.
Sicily and Southern Italian Cuisine
The Sicilian diet incorporates traditional Italian foods like tomatoes, pasta garlic and olive oil. Caponata is a Sicilian salad made with capers, celery, eggplant and olives.
Lamb and goat are the favored red meats of the region, though Italians in this region limit their consumption of these meats to maintain a healthy Mediterranean diet. Marsala is a popular Sicilian dish usually made with veal, but healthier Mediterranean alternatives can substitute this for chicken or eggplant.
South Italy is also famed for its stuffed pasta dishes including lasagna and manicotti. The pasta is filled with ricotta cheese, or sometimes meat and seafood, such as sausage or lobster.
If you enjoy the Mediterranean cultural fusion of traditional Sardinian and Sicilian dishes, and want to experience another distinct variety, try looking into traditional Greek dishes.