SARDINIAN DESSERTS ARE CLOSELY TIED TO RELIGIOUS holidays and other celebrations. In the past, when much of the island was plagued by poverty, desserts were not an everyday delicacy as they are today.
The most famous Sardinian dessert is undoubtedly the sebada, a fried dough pocket filled with cheese and drizzled with bitter honey. Another common sweet are amaretti, chewy almond cookies that come in many varieties. Sardinia is also famous for torrone (nougat), the best of which is made with honey and has an enchanting flavor.
Each town in Sardinia has its own sweets. Some are variations on a theme you can find most anywhere on the island; others are unique creations confined to a small area.
In the southern portion of the island, the Arab influence is very strong, so flavors like orange blossom, cinnamon, and vanilla are common. This influence decreases gradually as you move north, where many desserts include cooked grape must.
The cheese used in desserts also varies. In the south, ricotta is more common, while in the center of the island, pecorino takes over. Not surprisingly, cheese desserts from the center of the island have a much stronger flavor.
One unique ingredient in Sardinian sweets is sapa, the juice obtained from the first pressing of grapes that is then cooked down to a thick syrup. Cooking sapa can take the better part of a day. Once the cooked must has rested overnight, it can be poured into bottles and jars and preserved for long periods of time. Many Sardinian wineries bottle and sell sapa. Look for it—it’s an ingredient worth seeking out.