Oristano is a province on the island region of Sardinia in Italy. It is the smallest province in Sardinia. A large area of the province’s western coastline is part of the Gulf of Oristano and the land is mainly flat with some marshland. Oristano Province contains many protected areas: Monte Arci Regional Park, the Sinis Peninsula – Mal di Ventre Island Marine and the S’Archittu a Santa Caterina Natural Monument near Cuglieri. The Stagno di Mistras is a protected breeding ground for gulls and flamingos.
The province was founded in the 11th century BC by the people of Tharros. There is a monument to Eleonora d’Arborea, who was an important figure in Sardinian history and ruled the area from 1383 to 1404. The Tower of St. Christopher dates from 1291 and the cathedral, rebuilt in the 18th century, dates from 1288. Oristano is now an agricultural and fish-canning center.
A series of folkloric events and festivals are hosted here throughout the year. The most popular is the Sartiglia, a horse race of Medieval origins, held in Oristano on the last Sunday and Tuesday before Lent. San Salvatore hosts the traditional Corsa degli Scalzi (the Barefoot Race) that gathers hundreds of people on the first Saturday of September. They dress only in a white and carry a wooden statue of Jesus Christ from the village of Cabris to the Church of Cristo Salvatore. Sedillo, on July 6-7 hosts the Ardia, a horse race to honor Constantine I, the Roman Emperor. In Marrubiu, the honey, cheese, sausage and wine festival (sagra) takes place on the first Sunday of September.
This traditional, yet unique Sardinian cuisine combines food from the sea and the farms. The local specialities include pane carasau, thin sheets of flatbread that stay super crispy for days and go perfectly with Sardinian cheeses or with the local honey. All the cheeses and ricotta are made from ewes’ milk and range from very spicy to sweet.
Most popular is bottarga (salted, pressed and dried mullet eggs) that are either sliced or grated over pasta and other foods. Fregola, small balls of handmade pasta similar to couscous, are served with seafood. Lorighittas are a special pasta made out of two thin pasta ropes wound together and usually served with sausage and tomato sauce. Panadas are oven baked pies with meat, fish or vegetables.
Other specialties include malloreddus alla oristanese (gnocchi made from durum wheat and served with spinach, beets, eggs and heavy cream, myrtle hen (a hen boiled with aromatic herbs and myrtle branches) and su ghisa is a stew prepared with different types of meat.
Noteworthy wines include the Arborea, Vernaccia di Oristano (a world-famous wine), Nuragus, Vermentin, Sangiovese, Semidano, Moscato and Bovale.
Small rings of double twisted fresh pasta called lorighittas are typical in the province of Oristano. Traditionally, lorighittas are seasoned with a sauce made from tomatoes and free range rooster, or a meat ragu or a sauce made with beans, ricotta and saffron. At the beginning of August, a festival takes place where you can watch the local women making this pasta. If you calculate that 16 lorighittas make a serving then it will take at least 3 hours to prepare the dough for 4/5 people.
- 1 1/3 lbs (600 grams) bread flour
- 1 1/4 cups (300 grams) warm water
- 2 tablespoons (10 grams) table salt
- 1 1/4 tablespoons (10 grams) extra virgin olive oil
On a board or counter mix all the ingredients: flour, water, oil and salt until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and pinch off a piece of dough. Roll it into a long string about ⅛ inch thick (0.2 cm diameter).
Roll the string up with a double turn of the strand on three fingers (index finger, middle and ring) and make a double ring. Cut off the excess dough.
Twist the two “strands” of dough between your fingers to form a braid.
Spicy Tomato Sauce for Lorighitta Pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Two garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 2 cups oven roasted tomatoes
- 1 small red chili pepper, seeds removed and diced
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly grated fiore sardo cheese, to taste
In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil, then add the smashed garlic and chili pepper.
Cook gently for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 7-8 minutes. Remove garlic and add salt, to taste.
Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil, then add the Lorighittas. The time needed is a bit variable, depending on the size of Lorighittas, how dry they are, etc.
Stop the cooking process when the Lorighittas are ready by pouring a glass of cold water into the pot, stir and, then, drain the Lorighittas.
Place the drained pasta in a bowl and toss with some tomato sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top and serve immediately.
Sea Bass in Vernaccia di Oristano Wine
Vernaccia di Oristano is a white Italian wine grape variety grown on the island of Sardinia that is designated Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) of Vernaccia di Oristano based in the province of Oristano. Vernaccia di Oristano is a distinct variety that is not related to the Tuscan wine grape Vernaccia used to make Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
- 2 medium sea bass
- 1 small onion. finely chopped
- 1 bunch flat-leafed parsley
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ cup black olives
- 1 cup Vernaccia di Oristano wine
Clean, scale and wash the bass.
In a large skillet with a cover, sauté the onion chopped, some finely chopped parsley and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. As soon as the onion becomes golden, add the sea bass and the remaining olive oil. Cook over low heat for ten minutes, turning the bass over after 5 minutes. Add the olives and Vernaccia, cover the pan and cook until the fish is done. Divide each fish in half and serve with the sauce.
Winter Vegetables with Bottarga
Sardinian caviar is found in mullet. The mullet is greatly appreciated in Sardinia for its eggs. These eggs are washed, placed in a wooden box and covered with salt, then pressed to make them flat. It is a favorite garnish in Sardinia called Bottarga and it is used to top a wide variety of dishes. The first people to salt and season the egg sacks of mullet were the Phoenicians.
- 12 small fresh carrots with tops
- 2 heads of fennel
- 4 chard leaves
- 40g mullet bottarga
- Large pinch of dried chili flakes
- Juice of half a lemon
- 3 ½ fl oz (100 ml) good, delicate olive oil
Prepare the vegetables:
Peel the carrots, leaving a little bit of the green top on them — if large, split in half lengthways. Remove the outer layer of fennel and cut the fennel into six or eight wedges depending on its size. Cut the chard leaves in half.
Boil a large pot of salted water.
Grate the bottarga finely into a mixing bowl and add the chili, lemon juice and a few tablespoons of the boiling pasta water. Let rest for a few minutes, then mix with a whisk to make a smooth paste. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk to make a light emulsion.
Boil the vegetables — they should all take roughly the same time, but you may have to scoop out the chard leaves early, if the stalks are thin. You want the vegetables to be soft enough to cut with a fork, but not mushy. Drain the vegetables and mix them with the bottarga sauce. Serve warm.
Sardinian Amaretti Cookies
Traditionally these cookies are mixed by hand.
Makes about 13-14 amaretti.
- 9 oz (250 g) finely ground almonds
- 2 drops of almond extract
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 small lemon, zested
- 5 large egg whites
- Extra sugar for coating your hands
Preheat the oven to 160 °C (330 °F)
Place almonds, sugar and lemon zest in a mixing bowl
Add egg whites a little at a time.
Place extra granulated sugar on a plate.
Dampen the palms of your hands with a little cold water and press them into sugar on the plate. This helps to prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands.
Roll a small quantity of mixture into a ball (roughly the size of a ping-pong ball).
Roll the ball in the dish of extra sugar.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.