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Pescaturismo and Grilled Fish

You’ve probably all heard about agriturismo, but do you know what pescaturismo is? The photo above might give you some clue, but if you’re still unsure, another hint comes from the word “pescare” which means “to fish” in Italian.

On our recent trip to Sardinia, we spent a day at sea aboard the Pescaturismo Sampey fishing boat with owners Gemi and Ignazina, (and their nephew Davide) as they hauled in their fishing nets and cooked the day’s catch for us and five other people.

You never know what’s going to appear as the nets get yanked from the sea. On this day it was lots of cuttlefish (similar to squid).

But there were also plenty of finned fish, such as red mullet and sea bass.

I was hoping for some octopus, which is what happened when I took this trip with Ignazina and Gemi 12 years ago, but the sole octopus that got snared in the net managed to escape while being hauled aboard.

There were still plenty of other fish for us to eat, and for Ignazina to remove from the net!

Gemi, Igna and  Davide worked on extracting the fish from the net, cleaning and cooking them, as we were moored off the coast of a small island. Note the flag on the boat, which is the traditional flag of the island, featuring the four moors.

While they did all the work, we were free to jump off the boat, swim and snorkel in the beautiful clear, turquoise waters.

We were summoned back on board for lunch, starting with tomato bruschetta.

Several fish courses followed, cooked in Ignazina’s tiny galley kitchen, including braised cuttlefish.

She also made a seafood risotto, sprinkled with bottarga (fish roe) on top.

Ignazina used some of the whole fish for a seafood stew.

Gemi cooked the rest of the whole fish on a portable grill. We couldn’t have had seafood any fresher unless we had eaten them raw while we were in the water. All this accompanied by limitless wine, homemade limoncello and mirto (blueberry liqueur), and fruit for dessert.

If you’re ever in Southern Sardinia with a day to spare and are looking for something unusual to do, try a day out at sea with Gemi and Ignazina. Their friendliness and hospitality are a great calling card for this beautiful island.

Trying to keep the Sardinia glow alive back at home in New Jersey, I found this two pound sea bass at the local fish store, caught that morning off the coast of our summer home. I smeared the aluminum pan with olive oil, added some herbs inside the fish cavity, scattered some lemon slices and onions around the fish, then my husband cooked it on the outdoor grill.

Filleting a whole fish can be intimidating to some, but once you’ve done it, (directions here), it’s not so difficult.

Besides, when you buy the whole fish, you get the advantage of scooping out the fish cheeks (the small piece on the fork, below) – the most tender and succulent part of all.

I may be far from the crystal clear waters surrounding Sardinia, but I can conjure up those memories at home eating grilled fish, while I remember diving off the side of the Sampey boat.

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Fried Sweet Ricotta Ravioli (Culurgioneddus Di Arrescottu)

This platter of cookies was the perfect ending to a fabulous meal at Agriturismo Sa Marighedda on our recent trip to Sardinia (recipe at the end of the post).  If you don’t know what an agriturismo is, let me explain. It’s sometimes a place to stay where the owners live, often on a working farm. It’s sometimes a place where the owners invite the public in for a meal using products grown or raised on site.

In this case, it was a restaurant next door to the owner’s home, and everything was homemade, from the cured meats, to the wine and liqueurs and everything in between. They offer a multi-course meal for a grand total of about 30 euros, or about $40.00 U.S. per person – a real bargain, especially considering the quality of the food and they even offer seconds of all the courses — if you have room in your stomach.

The owners, Mara and Roberto, work hard to deliver an authentic Sardinian meal and make you feel like  you’re sitting down to Sunday pranzo at their home. That is, if you’re in the habit of eating what seemed like non-stop courses – all of which were delicious. Families are most welcome here, and there’s even a playground for children who might feel a lightly antsy sitting at a table for two or three hours.

We were seated and immediately served a platter of homemade affettati (cured meats), olives and wine – all made in house and all wonderful.

Next came a frittata-like course, with zucchini dotting the egg and cheese mixture.

Then came savory pockets filled with seasoned raw tomatoes.  Think of tomato bruschetta, but with a flaky pastry dough instead of toasted bread.

We moved on to primo piatto, or in this case, primi piatti, since there were two first courses — one of malloreddus with sausage (see my last blog post here for the recipe),

And another of culurgiones, a typical Sardinian pasta similar to a fat ravioli, but filled with potatoes, pecorino cheese and mint.

We could easily have eaten seconds on any of these foods, but we knew there was still plenty to come, including the main event — roast suckling pig — cooked on an open spit.

Sardinia is surrounded by water and we ate fish nearly every night, but the interior of the island especially, is known for its delicious roast pig, and we were not disappointed in this juicy and flavorful rendition.

Before the main dessert arrived, we were presented with these small and juicy plums. They were just the right palate cleanser before moving to sweeter offerings.

I also wanted to show you these breads that are also traditional Sardinian shapes, using scissors and other implements to cut the dough.

Here are some of the implements Mara uses to make the breads and the cookies:

Aren’t they lovely with those scalloped, fringed edges? After they’re shaped, they get deep-fried and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

But we still weren’t finished after the cookie assortment. There was mirto (homemade blueberry liqueur) and grappa to taste. Fortunately, we didn’t have far to drive to get back to our hotel, after this abundant feast.

Thank you Mara and Roberto for your hospitality and the authentic flavor of Sardinian cuisine.

Mara was kind enough to give me her recipe for the ricotta ravioli (called culurgioneddus de arrescottu in Sardinian dialect) and you’ll find it below:

Culurgiones Di Arrescottu (Fried Ricotta Ravioli)
 
 
Ingredients
  • For the Filling:
  • 2.2 lbs.(1 kilo) ricotta (preferably sheep's milk)
  • 1 whole egg and one egg yolk
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 1 pinch of saffron (one of those waxed sleeves you buy in Italian grocery stores)
  • grated rind of two lemons, preferably organic
  • For the dough:
  • 5½ cups 00 flour (700 grams)
  • 2¼ cups (300 grams) semolina flour
  • water, as needed
  • ½ cup sugar (100 grams)
  • 1 cup lard or vegetable shortening - (200 grams)
  • confectioner's sugar or honey, to finish
Instructions
  1. Mix all the ingredients for the filling well until it is creamy, then set aside as you prepare the dough.
  2. Mix the 00 flour, semolina, sugar and lard (or shortening) together, and add just enough water until it comes together in a ball.
  3. Roll out the dough thinly, add some of the filling along a row of the dough, closing with another layer of dough, and cutting it out with a ravioli cutter.
  4. Fry the ravioli in hot oil, drain on paper towels, and when cool, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, or drizzle with honey.
 

Malloreddus alla Campidanese

 

If there’s one dish that’s synonymous with Sardinia, it’s the pasta called “malloreddus.” They’re similar in shape to cavatelli or gnocchi, and in fact you can find them in Italian specialty food stores labeled “gnocchetti Sardi.” But unlike gnocchi, no potatoes are used — just flour and water. And unlike cavatelli, they’re made with semolina flour, not regular flour, giving them a more “toothy” feel.

Depending on whom you ask, the word malloreddus is a diminutive of a Southern Sardinian word “malloru,” which translates to “chubby baby calves.” Another explanation (that makes more sense to me) is that it comes from the Latin word “mallolus” meaning “morsel.” Either way, they are delicious.

You can make the pasta at home using flour, water (and sometimes strands of saffron), but if you’re not up to the challenge, you can buy them in stores or online too.

I ate malloreddus several times during our recent trip to Sardinia, including at an agriturismo, where they were one of two pasta dishes served as primi piatti. The malloreddus are on the right, and a specialty pasta stuffed with potato called “culurgiones” is on the left. More on the agriturismo and the wonderful meal we ate there in another post.

A classic Sardinian recipe, served at all special occasions or for family dinners, is malloreddus alla Campidanese, using saffron in the sauce, rather than in the dough itself, and sausage. In Sardinia, the dish is as ubiquitous as pecorino cheese, another essential ingredient when serving this pasta.

If you use store purchased malloreddus, the dish comes together quickly, and is a real crowd pleaser, even if the crowd is just you and your husband!

Before leaving Sardinian, I want to introduce you to another symbol of this beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the structure called “nuraghe.” Nuraghi (plural of nuraghe) were built between 1900 and 730 BCE (way back in the Bronze Age) by peoples of the Nuragic civilization, of which little is known. There’s no consensus on what these stone structures were used for, but many believe they were used for either military purposes, as homes for rulers or ordinary people, for religious rites or a combination of the above.

It is thought that there were once 10,000 Nuraghi scattered across Sardinia, and the remains of about 7,000 nuraghi can still be found. However, it’s dangerous to visit many on your own because of hazardous conditions. (You wouldn’t want to have huge boulders fall on you!) The one pictured below, Su Nuraxi at Barumini, in the south-central part of the island, is well maintained, however, and a guide takes you through the various levels describing the structure.

You’ll need little guidance however, to dig into this dish of malloreddus all campidanese, so I hope you give it a try:

Malloreddus alla Campidanese
 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound malloreddus pasta
  • ¾ pound sausage
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 cups tomato pureé
  • a few strands of saffron
  • 2 T. water
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • a few fresh basil leaves (or a t. of dried basil)
  • salt, pepper
  • grated pecorino cheese
Instructions
  1. Soak the saffron strands in a tablespoon or two of warm water.
  2. Remove the casings from the sausage and sauté it in the olive oil, breaking it up into small pieces.
  3. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened.
  4. Add the tomato puree, the wine, the saffron and the water, the basil, salt and pepper.
  5. Simmer all together for about ½ hour to 45 minutes.
  6. Boil the pasta and add the ragu a little at a time, making sure you don't "drown" the pasta in sauce.
  7. Sprinkle grated pecorino on top before serving.
 

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Gnocchi in Pecorino Sauce with Guanciale

For those of you receiving these posts by email, I’m sorry about the funky formatting of the last entry. Due to computer problems, I had to create the post on my iPad, and obviously, I found out there are limitations to that platform. Hopefully this post, written on my new computer (yea!) has come through without any problems in viewing. To read my last post about pecorino di Pienza cheese, go to the actual site, http://ciaochowlinda.com.

Continuing on the pecorino theme, if you’re looking for heaven on a plate, have I got a recipe for you. These light as a cloud potato dumplings, served with guanciale and arugula in a creamy pecorino cheese sauce, were so divine, I was wishing I ordered a full portion for myself, instead of splitting it with my husband.

We ate these gnocchi as our primo piatto on a recent trip to Sardinia, at the restaurant in our hotel, La Villa Del Re.  After having tried a couple of other restaurants off site, we concluded that the hotel’s restaurant was unparalleled in its excellent cuisine. The chef here, Marco Granato, has a magic touch. Everything about this small hotel (adults only) along the Tyrrhenian Sea defines it as a special place, and one we can’t wait to go back to.

The food, the hospitality and the service are exceptional here and the views are stunning too. All the meals we enjoyed at this dreamy hotel along Sardinia’s Costa Del Rei were delicious and beautifully presented –

From breakfast with a view of the infinity swimming pool and the sea:

To the cakes and scones at the daily tea time:

To the toothsome homemade pastas:

To the main courses:

And desserts:

To the drinks and munchies by the sea.

The view from the private beach was pretty special too – with a sea that looked like it was painted by a watercolorist.

I’m still wondering if it was all just a dream. If so, don’t wake me up!

Just in case you can’t get to La Villa Del Re anytime soon, here’s that heavenly gnocchi recipe for you, courtesy of Marco Granato, La Villa Del Re’s talented chef.

More recipes and fun adventures from Sardinia to follow in future posts.

Gnocchi in Pecorino Sauce with Guanciale
 
Author:
Serves: serves 10
 
Ingredients
  • For the Gnocchi:
  • 1000 grams (2.2 pounds) boiled potatoes
  • 500 grams (about 3½ cups) flour
  • 50 grams fecola (about ⅓ cup potato starch)
  • 3 eggs
  • salt
  • For the Pecorino Sauce:
  • 350 grams (about 1¾ cup) milk
  • 200 grams (about 1 cup) mild pecorino cheese
  • 20 grams (1½ T.) flour
  • 20 grams ( 1½ T. )butter
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • For the Condiments:
  • 400 grams (small handful) arugula
  • ½ of a leek
  • 150 grams (about ⅓ pound) guanciale
  • 15 grams (1 T. ) extra virgin olive oil
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • salt, pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. To make the gnocchi:
  2. Boil the potatoes in water with the lemon peel for 20 minutes.
  3. They should be cooked on the outside, but will finish cooking in the oven, which will also dry out some of the water.
  4. After boiling, drain the potatoes and put them on a baking sheet and cook in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  5. After cooking, pass the hot potatoes through a potato ricer or a sieve and spread them out on a cookie sheet.
  6. Mix the riced potatoes with the flour, the fecola, the eggs and a bit of salt. Form the mixture into ropes, then cut each rope into small pieces to make the gnocchi.
  7. To Make the Pecorino Cream Sauce:
  8. Cut the cheese into small pieces, then put the butter and half the cheese into a pan over low heat until melted. Add the flour, making a roux, then add the milk, stirring constantly. Add the rest of the cheese and stir, letting the cheese melt, while adding salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more milk until reaching the desired consistency.
  9. To Finish:
  10. Cut the leek into small pieces.
  11. Cut the guanciale into small pieces
  12. Cook the leek in some olive oil at low heat for about 10 minutes. If it starts to turn dark, add some hot water or vegetable broth.
  13. Add the guanciale until it's slightly crunchy, then add the thyme, salt and pepper.
  14. Boil the gnocchi in salted water, then in a separate pan with the sauce, gently stir the gnocchi in the pecorino sauce. Add the cooked guanciale and the arugula and serve on warm plates.