When I was growing up, my family went to Macaroni Grill for food from Europe's boot-shaped nation. It wasn't until a few years ago that I realized that maybe I'd never had Italian food. Watching the last episode of this season's No Reservations, in which Anthony Bourdain travels to Sardinia, I felt some sadness that I never had eaten, and probably never would eat, what he was eating. Where but in Sardinia could you find these things?
Salty, fishy and hearty, bottarga pasta is one of Tony's favorites. To make the dish, salt-cured roe pouch is sliced and sautéed with garlic in homemade olive oil and tossed with spaghetti. Once plated, the pasta gets an extra sprinkling of grated bottarga. During that same meal on the Sardinian coast, Tony also eats spiny lobster splashed with balsamic vinegar to cut the fatty richness of the bottarga, along with local artichokes with tarragon.
This Sardinian flatbread can be eaten a year after it was first made, making it perfect for the shepherds who once had to spend time away from home. Tony visits a home where women cloaked in black have been making the delicate, cracker-like bread for decades. They show him how to use the bread as a plate for their homemade goat cheese and invite him to partake in their home-cured meat, pecorino and red wine. It's a meal we Houstonians try to recreate during every trip to Central Market, but it's just not the same.
Pasta handmade with a bike spoke
Not once did Tony eat pasta that wasn't handmade, often with a handy spare part and, many times, in a shape I didn't recognize. Tony ate pasta with porcini and ricotta in broth thickened with sheep's milk, tossed with wild boar.
Blood-filled sheep stomach and donkey steak
These are two things you probably wouldn't want to eat except for the fact that you know you can't. At a festival lunch, this "bloody piñata" was the center of attention. Everyone gathered as the stomach was produced from the kitchen and punctured, releasing the brownish-red blood thickened with bread and spices. Donkey was eaten in Sardinia's poorer days, but the dish survives for the tradition. Tony found it "tough but flavorful."
As Bourdain warmly puts it, Sardinian food is "all about Mom and the ingredients." If anyone knows where I can obtain any of the above food, minus the sheep stomach, please share your information. Especially if it's cooked by a mom.