The Valley of the Moon is a small beach area in Santa Teresa Gallura (SS), that resembles a lunar landscape, located near Capo Testa in the southern part of the narrow isthmus formed by the beaches of Santa Reparata and Rina di Ponente and the granite cliffs that are typical for this area. It is accessed by a path along the coast, which winds through small natural caves, tafoni, a source of fresh water, and a primary forest of oaks, juniper, arbutus, myrtle and heather. The southern coast of Corsica can be seen from the beach.
During the 1970s, this area was a favorite for hippies who set up camps within the valley to enable themselves to connect with nature. The landscape is breathtaking; enormous granite formations that have been carved by the mountain winds into fantastic shapes, jut from the earth like giant men along with other rock formations that have been rendered smooth over the years. The real show comes at night, when the white boulders glow under the moonlight.
The vegetation is mostly scrub; heather and wild myrtle stick out between the rocks and tall thin grasses blow in the wind, adding their own influence on the unusual landscape. The valley leads down to the sea where the waves batter the cliffs but, despite this turbulence, the feeling is always of calm. The beaches are narrow with white sand. Visually they are a stark contrast to the rugged landscape of the valley. It is also an area where you can relax on a hot day in one of the secluded coves.
The island’s geography gives some visual clues as to how influential other cultures have been in helping to shape Sardinia’s fascinating food culture over the course of the its invasion-riddled history. Considered a Mediterranean island, Sardinia’s eastern coast touches the Tyrrhenian Sea. While unquestionably an Italian region, Sardinia’s closest neighbor is actually the French island of Corsica to its north. On Sardinia’s southern coast, the shores of Algeria and Tunisia are closer even than Sardinia’s sister island, Sicily. Add to its unusual geography, the island has a long history of living under the rule of the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs and Spanish (just to name a few). They are one of only two groups of Italian peoples recognized as poplo (or “distinct people”), who carefully preserved their own language – Sardinian – elements of which pre-date the Latin roots it shares with the Italian language.
Walk the valley in this video.
Wild boar, lamb, pork, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, lobsters, sea urchins, octopus, clams, mussels and squid are all part of the Sardinian cuisine. Salty, “acquired-taste” signature flavors have developed, like those of bottarga (pressed and salted mullet roe) and the globally recognizable island namesake and mainstay, sardines. Carta di musica (or “sheet of music,” a favorite paper-thin crisp bread baked to a relatively dry state) graces almost every table. Traditional hearty Italian pastas like culingiones (ravioli) share center stage with Arabic-inspired couscous dishes. Cheeses hold a special place in Sardinia, being the island’s most exported food product.
Culurgiones (Sardinian Potato Ravioli)
Culurgiones are traditionally served on All Saints’ Day.
- 2 cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons semolina flour
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 15 mint leaves, minced
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Salt and pepper to taste
Brown Butter Sauce
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper
- 2 ounces grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 tablespoon finely minced mint leaves
Homemade Marinara Sauce
Make the pasta. Combine the semolina flour water and salt in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium until smooth. Add a little more water if necessary.
Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
Make the filling by steaming the potatoes until fork tender. While still warm mash them or use a ricer to make them smooth. Add the cheese, olive oil, mint and egg. Season with freshly ground pepper and salt.
Cut the dough into 3 sections. Put one piece of dough through the pasta machine roller until you have a thin smooth layer of pasta (around level 5 or 6.
Sprinkle the work surface with a little semolina flour, place the pasta sheet down and cut 4 ” circles out. Place a scant tablespoon of the filling on each circle. Fold the pasta so it looks like a taco and pinch it closed; crimp the edges together with the tines of a fork. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.
Make the sauce by melting the butter over medium heat. Don’t let it burn. Lower the heat and keep warm.
Boil the pasta for 2 1/2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water and arrange on a serving dish. Drizzle the brown butter sauce or marinara sauce over the culurgiones, sprinkle with some freshly grated cheese and top with minced mint leaves.
Sardinian Stuffed Eggplant
This dish tastes better the next day. The baked stuffed eggplant can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature, then reheat in a 325° F oven.
- Five 1-pound Italian eggplants,(2 whole; 3 halved lengthwise)
- Kosher salt
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 2 small bay leaves, crushed to a powder
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1 cup freshly grated fresh pecorino cheese, preferably Fiore Sardo (4 ounces)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup plain, dried bread crumbs
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
- One 35-ounce can Italian peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
Peel the whole eggplants; coarsely chop their flesh and transfer to a large colander.
Using a spoon, scoop the flesh from the 6 eggplant halves, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Set the shells aside.
Chop the scooped out eggplant flesh and add it to the colander with the other eggplant.
Mix the chopped eggplant with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and let drain for 30 minutes, then rinse well. Working in handfuls, squeeze out as much of the water as possible. You should have about 4 cups of chopped eggplant.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set a wire rack on a baking sheet.
Add the 6 eggplant shells to the pot and cook, gently poking them under to keep them submerged, until just tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant shells to the wire rack to drain and cool.
Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and arrange the eggplant shells in it, cut sides up.
In a large, deep skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and bay leaves and cook over moderate heat until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant and wine and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and just beginning to brown, 15 minutes. Add the pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up the meat, until cooked through and lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer.
Transfer the eggplant filling to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the pecorino cheese, the eggs, bread crumbs, nutmeg, basil and mint. Season the filling with salt and pepper. Spoon the filling into the eggplant shells.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
For the sauce: in a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, about 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon half of the sauce over the eggplants and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated pecorino cheese. Bake the eggplant until browned and bubbling, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve, passing the remaining tomato sauce on the side.
Sardinian Almond Cookies
- 16 ounces almond paste
- 1 cup chopped almonds (with skins; not slivered)
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Position oven racks in the middle and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 300 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
Break up the almond paste into large chunks and place them in a food processor. Process briefly until the paste is finely chopped. Add 2/3 cup of the almonds, the egg whites, sugar and process until the mixture forms a thick, smooth paste.
Drop 1 scant tablespoon of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 1 1/2 inches apart. Scatter the remaining chopped almonds over the top.
Bake for about 12 minutes, then rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown.
Let cool completely on the baking sheets before storing.
- Italian Treasures – Lampedusa, Sicilia (jovinacooksitalian.com)