Cagliari is a province on the island of Sardinia in Italy. An ancient city with a long history, Cagliari has been ruled several civilizations. Cagliari was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1324 to 1848, when Turin became the formal capital of the kingdom (which in 1861 became the Kingdom of Italy). Today the area is a regional cultural, educational, political and artistic center, known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and several monuments.
For a spectacular view, the best way to arrive in Cagliari is by sea. According to the author, DH Lawrence upon his arrival in the 1920s, he said the Sardinian capital reminded him of Jerusalem: ‘…strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.’ Yet, Cagliari is the most Italian of Sardinia’s cities. Tree-fringed roads and locals hanging out at cafes are typical. Sunset is prime-time viewing in the piazzas and everywhere you stroll, Cagliari’s rich history is spelled out in Roman ruins, museums, churches and galleries.
Following the unification of Italy, the area experienced a century of rapid growth. Numerous buildings combined influences from Art Nouveau together with the traditional Sardinian taste for floral decoration; an example is the white marble City Hall near the port. During the Second World War Cagliari was heavily bombed by the Allies. In order to escape from the danger of bombardments and difficult living conditions, many people were evacuated from the city into the countryside.
After the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the German Army took control of Cagliari and the island, but soon retreated peacefully in order to reinforce their positions in mainland Italy. The American Army then took control of Cagliari. Airports near the city (Elmas, Monserrato, Decimomannu, currently a NATO airbase) were used by Allied aircraft to fly to North Africa or mainland Italy and Sicily. After the war, the population of Cagliari grew again and many apartment blocks and recreational areas were erected in new residential districts, often with poor planning.
Cagliari is one of the “greenest” Italian cities and its mild climate allows the growth of numerous subtropical plants. The province has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and very mild winters. The city of Cagliari boasts a long coastline of eight miles and the Poetto, is the most popular beach.
Excellent wines can be found in the province, such as Cannonau, Nuragus, Nasco, Monica, Moscau, Girò and Malvasia, which are produced in the nearby vineyards of the Campidano plain.
Cagliari has some unique culinary traditions. Unlike the rest of the island, its cuisine is mostly based on the wide variety of locally available seafood. Although it is possible to trace culinary influences from Catalan, Sicily and Genoa, Cagliaritan food has a distinctive and unique character. Sardinians prefer barbecued fish (gilt-heads, striped bream, sea bass, red mullet, grey mullet and eels), while spiny lobsters, crayfish, small squid and clams are used in making pasta sauces and risottos.
Cagliari cuisine has numerous recipes for “pesce in carpaccio” or “pesce in burrida”. “Burrida” is fish and it is cooked in tomato sauce and vinegar or in a green sauce with walnuts. There are also numerous recipes for “gnocchetti” known as “malloreddus”, a type of passta which are different in size, color and taste because of the use of saffron and vegetables but they are all served “alla campidanese” with lots of tomato sauce, chopped sausage and grated Pecorino cheese.
Cagliari Style Lobster Salad
Lobster, which is called aragosta in Cagliari, is smaller, clawless and sweeter than New England lobster.
- 1/2 pound cooked lobster tail meat
- 10 cherry tomatoes, stemmed, washed and cut in half
- 1 tablespoon finely minced Italian parsley
- Grated zest of 1 large lemon
- 3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- Whole arugula leaves, washed and dried, optional
Cut the lobster meat up into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl. Gently mix in the tomatoes, parsley and lemon zest.
In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the lobster mixture and toss gently with two spoons.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, allow enough time for the lobster mixture to come to room temperature.
Line serving plates with arugula leaves, if using. Divide the lobster mixture evenly and spoon into the center of each plate.
Cagliari Style Pasta with Sardines
- 1 large fennel bulb (1 1/4 lb) and fronds, trimmed and chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 (3 3/4- to 4 3/8-ounce) cans sardines in oil, drained
- 1 pound perciatelli or spaghetti pasta
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, toasted and tossed with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste
Finely chop the fennel bulb and fronds.
Combine the saffron, raisins and wine in a mixing bowl.
Cook the onion, fennel bulb and seeds in oil with salt to taste in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the wine mixture and half of the sardines, breaking sardines up with a fork; simmer 1 minute.
While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta in a 6 to 8 quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.
Toss the hot pasta in a serving bowl with the fennel sauce, remaining sardines, fennel fronds, pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread crumbs and toss again.
Cagliari Style Clams with Fregola
Fregola is a pebble-shaped pasta that is formed by hand and then lightly toasted until golden. Fregola comes in small, medium and large grains and is available at specialty markets. This is a very popular dish in Sardinia.
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup fregola
- 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped
- Slices of Italian bread, toasted
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil.
Stir in the fregola, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 17 minutes.
Add the clams to the skillet in a single layer. Cover the pan and cook over moderately high heat until the clams open, about 4 minutes.
Discard any clams that do not open. Season the fregola with salt and pepper.
Spoon the fregola, clams and broth into shallow serving bowls.
Sprinkle with the coarsely chopped parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread.
- 1 lb dough
- Chopped fresh tomato
- Sliced mozzarella cheese
- Grated Pecorino cheese
- Sliced Sardinian sausage
- Thinly sliced onion and artichoke hearts, optional
- Italian green and black olives and a few capers
- Oregano and fresh basil
Spread the dough in a pan.
Add a generous layer of mozzarella cheese.
Add slices of sausage, olives, capers, onion and artichokes, if using.
Sprinkle with Pecorino cheese and top with chopped tomato.
Bake in the oven at 300 degrees F until the edges are golden.
Remove the pizza from the oven and add a few leaves of fresh basil and oregano. Cut into serving pieces.