Durum wheat pasta, cheese, potatoes and mint, are simple and genuine ingredients for one of the most famous recipes in Sardinia. Have you already figured out what we’re talking about?
Yes, the protagonists today are the Culurgiones!
Culurgiones: name and traditions
Culurgiones, also known as culurgionis, are a typical speciality of Ogliastra, certainly the most famous dish in the area: a type of fresh stuffed pasta, a kind of ravioli based on potatoes, cheese and mint.
What does culurgiones mean? There are two hypotheses in this regard: according to the first derives from the term culleus, i.e. leather bag. The second connects the name to the word cradle, that is, cradle or ravine. Both hypotheses seem quite true given the shape of the culurgiones.
The common and simple to find ingredients made this a peasant’s dish, firmly linked to the agro-pastoral culture and family traditions of this region. Today, culurgiones have evolved radically and have become a pearl of many restaurants specialising in Sardinian cuisine.
In the town of Ulassai (where a festival dedicated to culurgiones is organised in August) it was tradition to consume them exclusively in November on the day of the dead, as they were considered amulets able to protect the family from mourning… a tradition carried on until the sixties! In the other Ogliastra centres, there was no such custom, but they were prepared on special occasions such as the carnival and the completion of the grain harvest; or used as a gift, given as a pledge of esteem and friendship.
The preparation of culurgiones is divided into two parts: the pastry and the filling.
The dough is prepared with a mixture of flour and durum wheat, or only with durum wheat. The powders are mixed with warm and salty water: you work with your hands to obtain a smooth, elastic but not too soft paste, therefore ideal for closing. Then spread the dough with a rolling pin and obtain circles.
The filling consists of potatoes and cheese. It’s true, we were generic about cheese! This is because it can change depending on the area of preparation: fiscidu cheese (therefore salted Sardinian pecorino cheese) alone or the other variants provide for the union with other types of pecorino and goat cheese. The potatoes must be boiled and crushed: then add oil (in the past, pork lard or veal fat was used), salt, mint and garlic.
At this point, place the filling in the pastry circles and proceed with the closure.
Is that all? The ingredients are simple, the preparation also, what is so special about culurgiones? The closure!
The typical closure is called a spighitta and recalls a wheatear. Also, in this case, the food blends with the agro-pastoral culture: the spighitta closure represents the wheat, the wheat in Sardinia is traditionally a symbol of luck and prosperity, so much so that in the past we greeted each other with the expression salutes and trigu, wishing each other health and wheat. How do you get this particular closure? Pinch the edges of the dough with your thumb and index finger until they are completely sealed. In this way, you should get the final shape, similar to a drop. Use of the conditional is mandatory: for the spighitta you need a lot of manual skills and a lot of practice and as with all things the first experiments could be far from perfect!
The different ways to taste culurgiones
The classic cooking of culurgiones is done by boiling: the seasoning can be simply tomato sauce with pecorino cheese or goat cheese grated on top.
Another version is white: in this case, they are seasoned with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and grated pecorino cheese.
In addition to boiled, culurgiones can be eaten baked but also fried: of course, we are a little far from the tradition, but it is definitely worth it!
Fantastic culurgiones: where to find them
Since 2015, the Culurgiones ogliastrini have obtained the certification as a PGI product or product with Protected Geographical Indication, the recognition concerns more than twenty municipalities in the area including: Arzana, Ilbono, Jerzu, Lanusei, Lotzorai, Osini, Perdasdefogu, Seui, Gairo, Tertenia, Tortolì, Triei, Ulassai, Urzulei, Ussassai.
These countries, as well as fantastic culurgiones, are characterised by many places of interest, some examples? The lido of Orrì in Tortolì, the ghost town of Gairo Vecchio, the Art Station of Ulassai, a town of the famous artist Maria Lai.
Nature, art and good food: what more could you want from a holiday?