The Most Famous Sardinian Breads

Sardinian breads are delicious, fragrant, full of flavor and history.

Like in every other part of Italy and the majority of the Mediterranean Basin area, bread has always had an essential role in Sardinia’s traditions and society. It’s a food that is eaten by everyone, in any social class, and therefore has several varieties and recipes mirroring the socio-economical condition of its consumers.

Since ancient times, bread-making was an occasion for grouping together and strengthen family and neighborhood bonds among Sardinian women. There are numerous occasions requiring special types of bread to be made, but cooking the daily eaten bread was also a task often done by the community rather than the individuals of a family; moreover, even if it happened to be a “family-only business”, every girl from said family would gather and help the others.

Bread-making traditions have always unfolded together with seasons, festivities, and daily routines, leading to the birth of several special types of bread that are still cooked to celebrate these occasions. Famous examples are the Easter and New Years’ bread, as well as the ones specially made for the sheepherders leaving for or coming back from transhumance.

There is a huge number of traditional Sardinian breads, divided by area, ingredients, and occasion of making. I can’t possibly mention them all, so let me introduce you to some of the most famous ones.

pane carasau

The Best Known Sardinian Breads

Carasau – AKA Sardinian Flatbread

The Carasau bread (Sardinian Flatbread) is probably the most known bread type outside of the island. Its origins are very old, so old that some historians even speculated it was already made during the Nuragic era, and its recipe is extremely easy: you only need water, durum wheat semolina, salt, and yeast. Its iconic, easy to carry disk shape and the fact that it can last for up to 180 days has made Carasau Sardinian Flatbread into an excellent food for sheepherders, especially in older times (when they had to travel back and forth with their herds), and appointed it as one of the gastronomic symbols of Sardinia.

The Carasau bread making follows several steps and isn’t within everyone’s reach: only the skilled women of the family used to cook it, and nothing has changed until nowadays. Of course, the chain food production has made everything easier and faster, but believe me when I say that the Carasau coming out of a factory doesn’t taste the same as the homemade one! Let me give you a simple explanation of what makes this flat bread so special.

The Carasau bread gets its name from the double-toasting (called carasadura) it receives in the oven, but guess what? This is one of the last steps in its making, which is quite long and sometimes spans into two days. Here are the main phases (the first 4 steps are used for other types of bread too):

S’inthurta: It starts at dawn and consists of kneading the dough inside a special terracotta basin or on a wooden cupboard, depending on the area and family traditions.

Cariadura: The dough is kneaded energetically on a table, and water is added if needed in order to make it softer, smoother, and easier to spread.

Sardinian bread
Preparing traditional Sardinian flatbread

Pesadura: The dough is now left inside special cork or terracotta bowls and covered with wool sheets; it needs to sit for some time. Meanwhile, the women prepare the tools for the next steps.

Oridura/Sestadura: Once the dough has started to rise, it is cut into smaller pieces, covered with flour, and again put to sit under wool sheets.

Illadadura: The dough is spread and made thinner and thinner with wooden rolling pins until it gets its typical round shape.

It’s time for the dough to be cooked (coghere)! The disks are put inside a traditional oven with a tool similar to the ones used for pizzas, at a temperature of about 450/500° C. The dough starts to grow and it’s soon ready for the next step.

Fresadura: This is the part requiring the most skills and rapidity. The now cooked bread is taken out of the oven and needs to be separated into two, thin sheets. It’s a gesture that has to be done fast, or the cool air will make the two sides stick to each other again (and impossible to separate), but also needs the performer to be careful not to burn himself/herself with the hot steam coming out the bread.

Carasadura: And finally, the last step I already mentioned. The thin bread becomes Carasau thanks to the second run in the oven and is now ready to be eaten in a dozen different ways.

There are, of course, a few variants of Carasau depending on the length of toasting (which changes its color and overall taste) or the ingredients added during the cooking. The most popular one is probably the Guttiau, made by adding olive oil on the bread in between the first and second toasting. It has got so popular that is now sold in small bags and eaten as a snack, just like potato chips!

Sardinian breads
Gianni Careddu, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Coccoi

The Coccoi bread was originally considered a daily food for the richest but instead reserved for festivities in the poorer families. It’s made with durum wheat semolina and its typical features, the hard crust and extremely soft inside, have made the Coccoi bread one of the favorite breads in Sardinia. There is virtually no Sunday lunch without some Coccoi on the table, and the same goes for its festive variants (of which I’ll talk soon).

Despite its fame, this bread isn’t easy to make and requires time and skills: the main difficulty of its making is the extremely small quantity of water going into the dough, essential to make a soft but thick inside. Another challenging part is the bread decoration (which is what makes it so special and admired by non-locals and locals alike).

Making a pretty Coccoi bread requires three tools: the serretta, a cog-shaped thing used to shape it; the arrasojedda, a small knife to carve the upper crust, and a pair of small scissors to cut smaller details. There are hundreds of decorations and combinations and every village has its own Coccoi version.

Coccoi
Sailko, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Coccoi festive variants

There are several types of Coccoi, each of them with a place of origin and a ritual/festivity to be associated with. Let’s see the most famous ones:

Coccoi cun s’ou (Coccoi with an egg): Special bread with a boiled egg on its center, specially made for the Easter lunch and often gifted to kids.

Coccoi a pizzusu/Coccoi de s’isposusu (Pointed Coccoi/Newlyweds’ Coccoi): Prepared for big events and celebrations, usually for wedding celebrations, this Coccoi takes different names depending on how its pointy crust is shaped.

Some examples are Coccoi a arennada (Pomegranate Coccoi); Coccoi a pisci (Fish Coccoi); Coccoi a Tustuinu (Tortoise Coccoi). There really is a multitude of differently shaped Coccois!

Coccu

This is an unfermented wheat bread that was traditionally prepared for the sheepherders at the end of the transhumance period. Its shape is small and round, and it was cooked on the fireplace: firstly, they would cover the dough with ash and embers, then they would wash it and cover it with a cloth. It’s still cooked in some rural, mountain villages and usually eaten during festivities.

Civraxiu

The Civraxiu bread is the real daily Sardinian bread, eaten by everyone on the island and cooked inside the traditional calotte oven. It is also called “black bread” because of the ingredients used in its recipe (semolina + durum wheat flour) and because of the double leavening process needed. It originates in the village of Sanluri, in the middle of the Campidano Plain.

The Civraxiu bread is usually a big, heavy bread which lasts – and stays soft – for about a week and it has, therefore, always been great food for the farmers’ families who spent their days on their fields.

Costedda

Also called Lada or Ladixedda, it is made with the same ingredients and steps followed for the Civraxiu making, but it’s smaller and is usually eaten as fast as possible because it includes fresh cheese or other seasonal products in its recipe.

The most famous Costedda breads are:

Costedda cun arrescottu, made with ricotta.

Costedda cun pabassa, made with raisins.

Costedda cun gerda, made with pork rinds.

Final Consideration On Sardinian Breads

As for many other traditional foods (not only from Sardinia), it is impossible to make a full list of every single bread and its variations, but I hope this short post has taught you something you didn’t know about one of the foundations of the Mediterranean diet.

Further Readings

Make sure to read my other posts:

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Read about the many Sardinian breads - via @c_tavani

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