Is Casu Marzu Cheese The Best Sardinian Cheese?

In addition to its beaches, its emerald sea, its beautiful landscapes, the lovely villages and the unique archeological sites, Sardinia is also famous for its typical products. Among these products, Sardinian cheese is probably the most famous. It should go without saying, since Sardinia has a massive population of goats and sheep. The overall count of goats and sheep in Sardinia in 2019 was of about 3.1 millions, literally twice the number of people living on the island.

Cheese in Sardinia typically has a strong flavor. It’s salty, quite peppery and very sharp. However, the name “Sardinian cheese” is quite reductive, because there are so many types, each with its own distinctive flavor and production method, and each cheese is not only just eaten on its own, but also used to create incredible dishes and even desserts such as pardulas or seadas.

While you may surely have hears of Cazu Marzu cheese – Sardinia’s famous “rotten cheese,” there are many more kinds you should try while on the island, and if you are a cheese lover you may be in for a real treat!

If you are planning a gastronomic trip to Sardinia, then you may need some more information about the typical cheeses of the island. This guide provides a short overview of the most famous Sardinian cheeses, perfect to prepare your palate. And remember, there’s hardly anything better than matching a good cheese with an excellent wine!

Make sure to read my posts A Guide To Sardinian Wines and The Best Wineries In Sardinia.

Casu Marzu Cheese

Which One Is The Best Sardinian Cheese?

Casu Marzu Cheese

Let me start this guide on Sardinian cheese with one that is actually not nearly commonly eaten as the others. Often cited as one of the most dangerous foods in the world, older generations of locals actually swear by it – and remember, Sardinians are among the oldest people in the world, so Casu Marzu Cheese may not be nearly as dangerous as it is portrayed to be.

But I digress…

Casu Marzu Cheese, the Sardinian maggot cheese, is one of the most famous (or infamous) products in all of Sardinia. Its name can be translated as rotten cheese, but although it’s not exactly inspiring, the Casu Marzu is extremely appreciated.

Basically, it is a sheep’s milk cheese infested by a particular fly that deposits its eggs in it. The larvae, or rather, their saliva, gives Casu Marzu its unique flavor, creamy and spicy at the same time. Finding this cheese is not easy, because it is considered an illegal product, as it could cause gastrointestinal diseases. If you want to try it, you will have to go to a local market and ask around – it’s literally sold under the table!

Pecorino

Sardinian Pecorino

When talking about Sardinian cheeses, locals usually think of Pecorino Sardo. Produced since the 18th century, the Sardinian Pecorino is divided into two different types: the Pecorino Dolce, aged from 20 to 60 days, and the Pecorino Maturo, aged over 60 days.

Pecorino Sardo Dolce is smooth and thin, with an aromatic or sour flavor, while Pecorino Sardo Maturo has a more compact texture and a strong, spicy flavor. These two types make Pecorino Sardo suitable for all palates, as well as an excellent ingredient for preparing various dishes.

Fiore Sardo

Fiore Sardo

Fiore Sardo (which literally means “Sardinian Flower”) is a type of pecorino, produced using artisanal methods. It’s productions dates back to the pre-Nuragic times, before the Romans conquered Sardinia.

The Fiore Sardo is characterized by its white color with yellow streaks, with a hard consistency, which however is crumbly and grainy to the palate. The flavor is spicy and aromatic. It takes the name Sardinian Flower from the production method, in fact the aging takes place in chestnut wood molds, which feature a stylized flower shape on the bottom.

Sardinian cheese

Sardinian Provola

A fresh, semi-mature cheese with a distinctive pear shape, Provola Sarda – often called “Peretta” by locals – is among the most popular typical products of Sardinia. The soft texture and the light taste are suitable for those who prefer cheeses with a more delicate flavor than the Sardinian Pecorino Maturo or Fiore Sardo.

Sardinian Cheese

Casu Axedu

Depending on the place of production, Casu Axedu can be found under various names, such as fruhe, frughe, frua, fiscidu, bischidu, préta and many others. It’s made from sheep’s or goat’s milk throughout the year. Casu Axedu is characterized by its creamy texture. It’s often used in soups too. If you have the chance, try the casu axedu with the typical Sardinian crusty bread, the pistoccu.

Check out my post A Guide To Sardinian Bread.

Cas’e Fitta

The Sardinian “sliced cheese” has a special production method, after which it is sprinkled with salt, left to rest for two days, then turned on the other side and salted again. The salty flavor of the cheese makes it suitable for the preparation of typical Sardinian dishes such as culurgiones and soups.

Make sure to read my post How To Make Culurgiones.

Pardulas Pardule

Ricotta Sarda

Sardinian ricotta is a cheese often used as an ingredient in the preparation of typical dishes, although it can still be enjoyed with bread or without. In particular, Sardinian ricotta is used for baked pasta, although it is also present in some desserts recipes such as pardulas. It is handmade, using traditional techniques passed from generation to generation.

How To Make The Most Of Cheese In Sardinia

Go to a local market

If you wish to see (and taste) as many kinds of cheese in one go, head to a local market! Each city, town and village in Sardinia has one. In smaller towns or villages the local market will be open once or twice a week; whereas bigger cities like Cagliari and Sassari have a bunch of civic markets that are open Monday to Saturday.

Just walk to the cheese and charcuterie section, ask for the best “formaggio sardo” (formaggio is cheese in Italian) or for a good pecorino, and see if you can try it before you buy it.

Head over to my post A Guide To Markets In Cagliari.

Take a guided tour

Another good idea to try Sardinian cheese is to actually take a guided tour. There are some good options in Cagliari, where most cheese tours will also include a wine tasting experience.

For a cheese making experience in Dolianova, near Cagliari, click here.

For information a wine, cheese and olive oil tasting experience in Serdiana and Dolianova (again, near Cagliari), click here.

Sardinian cheese

Enjoy a cheese platter at a wine bar

In many countries, cheese is served at the very end of a meal, after dessert and with crackers. It’s actually the complete opposite in Sardinia, where cheese is typically served as an appetizer or aperitif, often along some charcuterie, and typically along a glass of wine – best if red!

The best place to enjoy this kind of experience will be one of the many wine bars scattered throughout the island. My favorite is by far Sabores, in Cagliari’s Marina district – but each city has a bunch!

Don’t forget to read my post The Best Wine Bars In Cagliari.

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Check out this guide to Sardinian cheese - via @c_tavani

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