Sardinian cheeses you must try

Cheese is big news in Sardinia. There are more than 3,500,000 sheep, goats and cows on this Italian island, with its rich and varied dairy industry. The sheep population alone makes up 40% of the total amount in Italy. It’s also 2.5 times more than the amount of people living on the island. Saying that, cheese production is abundant in Sardinia, and the varieties are aplenty.

Sheep and goats provide high-quality milk to produce Sardinian cheeses — the most popular exports being pecorino and ricotta. However, they’re not the only ones worth trying. There’s a wide range of cheese in Sardinia, and these 5 are some of the most popular.

Sardinian cheeses to try on your travels

—01

 

Fiore Sardo DOP – cheese in Sardinia

The most common pecorino is Fiore Sardo DOP. It’s also known as Pecorino Sardo – a raw, hard cheese made from whole sheep’s milk. This cheese was given DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) status in 1996. In short, this certification assures its buyers that the product has been made, and packaged, locally. When you see the DOP label, this means the milk was sourced from a single local Sardinian flock.

Pecorino Sardo is made from unpasteurised sheep’s milk and has a dense and firm texture. The cheese’s nutty and salty texture is widely used in pesto sauces, or freshly grated over pasta dishes and salads. It’s also a good pairing with Sardinian Malvasia wine.

 

Sardinian cheeses - Pecorino Sardo

 

Nowadays, they add lamb rennet to the process of making the Fiore Sardo DOP, but this wasn’t always the case. Taking after its name ‘fiore’ (flower), the original coagulating component they used in the cheese was the powder from cardoon flowers. Sadly, this means Fiore Sardo isn’t suitable for vegetarians or vegans.

The intensity of the cheese can vary according to the length of maturation. Less mature Fiore Sardo DOP makes an ideal appetizer for aperitivo. More mature pecorino goes well on roast potatoes, sausages, fresh tomatoes and of course, on pasta.

Cheesy rating *****

—02

 

Sardinian cheeses – ricotta

There are 3 popular varieties of ricotta cheese in Sardinia: smoked matured, ricotta mustia and ricotta salata. The Sardinian varieties are all made using fresh sheep’s milk.

Smoked matured ricotta and ricotta mustia contains vegetable rennet and are therefore suitable for vegetarians. They’re both buttery in texture, though the ricotta mustia is more solid than the smoked.

 

Sardinian cheeses - Sardinia ricotta

 

Both varieties are versatile for use in cooking and also as an appetizer. Its aromas also differ, given that the smoked matured ricotta takes on the flavors of the smoked Mediterranean foliage.

As its name suggests, ricotta salata is saltier than the other varieties. This makes it a good ingredient for cooking, rather than an appetizer, as it naturally adds flavor to the dish. This ricotta is also ideal to use in sweet or savory dishes, such as ravioli and traditional Sardinian desserts.

Cheesy rating *****

Planning on visiting Sardinia soon? If so, why not consider joining a local tour? It’s a fun, low cost way of exploring the island, and also great for solo travelers, families and couples.

—03

 

Casizolu– cheeses to try in Sardinia

In the Montiferru area of Sardinia, near the town of Oristano, farmers make the pear-shaped Sardinian cheese, casizolu. It differs from the other cheeses made on the island, in that it’s made from whole cow’s milk. The typical breeds they take the milk from are Sardinian-Bruno and Sarda-Modicana cows.

White to pale yellow in colour, Casizolu is also one of Sardinia’s ancient dairy cheeses. It has been labelled as a Slow Food Presidium product, meaning it’s one of the world’s endangered heritage foods. Farmers that make casizolu belong to the Montiferru Casizolu producers’ association. They follow a production protocol to make the cheese to the same standards as their ancestors. 

 

Cheeses to eat in Sardinia - Casizolu

 

In the past, it was the women that made this stretched-curd cow’s milk cheese. They would first process the fresh milk, and then work the curds in hot water. The final stage would be forming the cheese into its unique pear shape. Nothing is thrown away during the process of making casizolu. The whey water they use when spinning the curds is used as the broth for a cheese soup called s’abbagasu.

When the cheese is aged longer, it tends to be spicier in flavour. Casizolu cheese is widely used for the filling in the Sardinian classic fried delicacy, sebadas.

Cheesy rating ***

“There are more than 3,500,000 sheep, goats and cows, equaling a rich and varied industry in Sardinia.”

—04

 

Sardinian cheeses – Casu Marzu (maggot cheese)

To put it bluntly, casu marzu is one Sardinian cheese that won’t be to everyone’s liking. Casu Marzu, otherwise known as ‘maggot cheese’, is a Sardinian delicacy that’s only made on the island.

It literally translates to rotten cheese because it contains live maggots. Once Casu Marzu is ready, they cut a hole in the top, and put the cheese outside where cheese flies come and basically set up home on its surface. The live insect larvae ferment the cheese to an extreme degree, giving Casu Marzu a softer consistency as it develops its flavor.

While it may not sound tempting to fellow non-Sardinians, the locals are crazy for it. So much so, it’s common to find this cheese at big celebrations like weddings and birthdays.

 

Cheese to try in Sardinia - Casu Marzu

 

Casu Marzu is in fact illegal in the EU, given the health and safety issues surrounding this Sardinian cheese. Many Sardinians believe that it’s dangerous to eat when the maggots are dead.

It’s not surprising then, that it’s not easy finding this cheese in Sardinia. Your best bet at tasting it is to gain the trust of locals that can source it for you. Alternatively, you can also find a restaurant that serves it (on the downlow), and make friends with its owner!

Whether you choose to try casu marzu or not, there’s no question it’s one of Sardinia’s most notable cheeses.

Cheesy rating **

—05

 

Casu Agedu– cheese to try in Sardinia

Casu Agedu is a typical shepherd’s cheese that comes from the Ogliastra region of central-eastern Sardinia. There are other names by which the cheese is also known by, such as Casu Axedu, Frue, Fruhe and Frughe. Like Casizolu, Casu Agedu is also a Slow Food Presidium product.

This Sardinian cheese contains raw goat or sheep’s milk, and is then left to curdle for 24 hours. It’s kept at a lukewarm temperature, similar to how they’d make yogurt. A fresh cheese, without a crust, it’s white in color and has a sour taste.

 

Sardinia cheeses - Casu Axedu

 

Casu Agedu is produced in small rectangular shapes and is also normally eaten fresh. Mature varieties tend to be salty and spicy in flavor, making them ideal ingredients for soups and pasta fillings. During summer, many households in Ogliastra eat casu axedu for lunch or dinner, pairing it with a glass of wine.

You can also preserved Casu Agedu with salt, which in turn makes another cheese called Su Casu ’e Fitta. Locals use the cheese in many recipes in Ogliastra, as well as for making traditional Sardinian pasta called culurgiones.

Cheesy rating ****

Other noteworthy Sardinian cheeses to try include Casu Friscu (sheep’s milk), Fresa (soft and buttery) and Gioddu (creamy and white).

 

Where to stay in Sardinia?

Rather than basing your stay in one location, I advise spending a night in different places on the island. The north of the island towards La Maddalena archipelago is popular with Italian holidaymakers, but also more expensive.

However, I’d still encourage staying at a hotel here, if only for 1 night. La Coluccia is a beautiful 4-star boutique hotel in the north of Sardinia. It’s 50 yards from the sandy beach, and also a good location for catching the ferry to La Maddalena. There are 45 rooms and suites at this Sardinia boutique hotel, plus a magnificent spa where you can recharge. Check here for prices and availability.


Hotel Eliantos Cagliari

In the south of the island in the Sardinia capital of Cagliari, is one boutique hotel stealing the show. There are just 14 rooms at Hotel Eliantos, where each room overlooks the private garden or terrace.

They’re also big on hospitality at Hotel Eliantos, and each guest is made to feel right at home. Other facilities worth mentioning are the outdoor pool and wellness centre, which has a Turkish bath and Finnish sauna. You can check here to compare dates and prices.

What do you think of these Sardinian cheeses? Which one/s would you like to try? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended. Thank you for your support.

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70 Comments

  1. Natalie

    Love the cheezy rating! We love trying new foods when we travel. The kids are always with us and they are not quite as open to things like…..maggot cheese 😉 but we would have fun trying the others!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Don’t worry about the kids…I too wasn’t open to the maggot cheese. The locals love it, but I couldn’t stomach the sight, or smell, of it!

  2. Stacey

    #4 though… I don’t know if I’d want to try that one!!! I love your rating system though Haha! I think #1 is more my speed, I prefer a harder cheese.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Hehe thanks Stacey! Yes, the maggot cheese is probably a refined taste, and not for everyone!

  3. Zinara

    Yay to this cheezy rating! I love Ricotta although I don’t think what I tried was original and from Sardinia. I’m open to new cuisines but sometimes I cannot stomach many types of cheese. Some are too salty for me.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I know what you mean, and I’m glad you like the cheesy rating! I love cheese tbh, it’s just so calorific!

  4. Juliette | Snorkels to Snow

    I was enjoying this and craving cheese until I read about the maggot cheese! That’s bizarre and I’m not sure if I would be brave enough to try it, and I usually love all cheese! Interesting they use a lot of sheep’s milk too. In NZ we have so many sheep but sheep milk products are not very common.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I don’t think you’re alone on this! I couldn’t stomach it either and I love cheese! How interesting about NZ cheese; I never knew that!

  5. woody world packer

    Cheese! Yes please! I am originally from the Netherlands and called cheese heads and most Dutch love cheese in every single form, type and taste. Of course in combi with a good glass of wine 😉

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Hehe yes, I know the Dutch are very fond of their cheese too; I think many of my meals consisted of bread and cheese when I was there!

  6. Ava

    Goat cheese is my favorite! Your photos are amazing and I truly am hungry now for some cheese! I look forward to seeing more of your posts and photos soon!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I love it too! Keep tuned, more Italy adventures coming, this time from Sicily 😀

  7. Riely

    Unfortunately with a dairy allergy all cheeses are off the table for me. I have found many local nut cheese options that are out of this world, some I am going to attempt to make myself. They do really live up to the hype of cheese. We will see if I can make as tempting of Ricotta cheese as the one shown above.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Oh no, such a shame! I’m sorry that you cannot share my love of the cheesy stuff! Thanks for commenting anyway!

  8. David Meldrum

    I have recently became a fan of cheese which I primarily eat with crackers! The pecorino cheese sounds like the best for me!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      The Pecorino is pretty fantastic, and a good choice. I too love cheese on crackers and with pretty much anything!

  9. Mariella

    Ah, nothing quite like a delightful piece of cheese that makes your taste buds sing! I am a true fan of cheeses – I love them all! When I visited Switzerland I was in my own kind of heaven Thank you for sharing! I’ll safe this post if I stumble upon an adventure in Sardinia haha – Mariella

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Great Mariella, I hope you get to try it for yourself. The cheese in Sardinia is too moreish 🙂

    • Stephanie

      You can tell just by reading the descriptions and looking at the photos how vastly different the quality of these cheeses are when they are closer to and made in the mother land…I wanted to jump through the screen and eat that ricotta! I’m dying to get to Sardinia and this makes me want to go all the more! I’ve seen the maggot cheese online…definitely would NOT be able to try it!

    • Lisa

      I don’t blame you, I couldn’t stomach it either! Ricotta on the other hand is always delicious 😀

  10. Vicki Louise

    I want to try all of the cheeses! I know some people say that Cheese isn’t a food group but it seriously one of my favorite things to eat. I love your cheezy rating too!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Cheese deserves its own food group, I’ll second that! Ha, thanks, I had to put my own special addition!

  11. Shibani

    Cheese is something that can add flavor to any dish and here I find myself with such different varieties of cheese 😀 I would love to try Pecorino and Ricotta, Ricotta looks like a home base cheese my mum makes at home so I all up for this one. I never knew there’s something called as endangered heritage food if that’s the case I am going to give Casizolu a try for sure!! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful piece of information I didn’t much about. Surely keeping this post in my reserves to try all these whenever I land in Italy 🙂

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Shibani, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Sardinian cheeses are delicious, and yes, some, a little challenging!

  12. Suzanne

    I’ve only tried ricotta from your list. However, the rest of the Sardinian cheeses look tempting. What’s your favorite?

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I love Sardinian pecorino, it’s so moreish!

  13. Kate Storm

    Girl after my own heart! I’ve yet to meet a cheese I don’t like, though I try not to ask for any details about how they’re made or what they’re made from until after I try them–don’t want to freak myself out! Love your “cheesy rating” lol.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Ha, glad you like it! Italy is home to some amazing cheese in general, but the ones in Sardinia are just a tad bit special.

  14. Martha

    Cheese is my favorite food group so I love trying different cheeses when I travel the world. I even have a “bucket list” of cheeses to try.. LOL, I’ve added a few of these onto my list. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Ha, that’s a first I’m sure, a cheese bucket list, I think this is an idea for a blog!

  15. Sherrie

    I’ve had pecorino romano and of course ricotta, but I hadn’t heard of the other three. No way would I be able to stomach anything with maggot in the name — who would ever think to ferment cheese with live insect larvae?! Unique for sure!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      My thoughts exactly Sherrie, it’s a unique taste!

  16. Bhusha

    3.5 million sheep?? Whoa! That’s a lot… And being a lover of cheese, I’d love to taste them all. Casizolu looks very interesting. Endangered heritage food that’s spicy? That’s 2 more reasons to try it out.. I’m gonna steer clear of Casu Marzu though.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Lol you’re not the only one! I couldn’t bring myself to try it!

  17. James

    I love trying cheeses_ I had some delicious brie this morning. The Casu Marzu can’t actually have maggots in it? It’s probably a delicious cheese and best tasted without it being described to you. Live insect larvae is an off putting way to describe it!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Haha, I’m sorry to tell you this, but it really does have maggots in it! The locals love it, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat it.

  18. Abigail Sinsona

    Ricotta cheese is one of my favorites, aside from mozarella and cheddar! I have to admit that I have yet to try the others; in fact, they are new to me. But since I am a cheese lover, I would love to try them out someday.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      You’ll be very brave to try Casu Marzu! Sardinian cheeses are delicious, and versatile for so many dishes too.

  19. Raghav

    Yum! Yum!! Yum!!!… and i could go on. I love food, but I love cheese even more (I know it’s food, but you know what i mean). Thanks for the information and the list as there are some cheeses I had no clue about and now I really want to taste them. Except for maybe Casu Marzu, which I am in two minds about, right now.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      You’re not alone Raghav! Casu Mazrzu is an acquired taste and even I couldn’t stomach it!

  20. Kim

    Yes! Cheese is like another food group for me, so I loved reading this post about the different Sardinian cheeses. I’ve never seen cheese like casizolu before, what an interesting way to present it. I wonder what the cheese really looks like inside the pouch.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It looks exactly as the shape! It’s common all over Italy, but in Sardinia the taste is slightly different 😀

  21. Stacy

    This is interesting! We travel with 4 kids that are such picky eaters we rarely get to indulge and sample the local fare. I had only known about a couple of these prior to reading, thanks for the education!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Aw that’s a shame! The cheeses are delicious and I would highly recommend to try them 🙂

  22. Anna

    You got me! I am a big fan of cheese – when we were testing a local hotel one of my favorite programs was the afternoon cheese platter & wine tasting, haha 😀

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Nice! The cheeses are all very good, but maybe not the maggot one!

  23. Rachelle

    Oh my gosh! I love cheese! Nothing is more delicious than ordering a cheese platter at restaurants, trying out a few new kinds every time. I’ve never heard of the Casizolu cheese before, and it makes me sad that it’s endangered! Definitely not about that maggot cheese, but you never know how you’ll like something or not unless you try it!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Trust me Rachelle, I saw the maggot cheese, and it didn’t look good at all! The rest are delicious however, and very irresistible.

  24. Danik

    I am not into cheese’s but Claire sure is. We are hoping to be in Sardinia later this year so hope to check some of these out. Great post.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Great Danik! You’re going to love Sardinia, I’m so sure of that!

  25. amanda obrien

    Love my cheese – especially italian ricotta! I ate loads of this when i was in sicily – I didn’t know it was as big a thing in sardinia. I do like a stinky cheese but somehow when you mention the word maggot it is hard to get hungry….

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Ha, I know exactly how you feel! Everything else is very tasty however, and hard to say no to!

  26. Aleksandra

    ricotta!! my favorite cheese. tried in sicily and can’t stop eating it. wow, the ones with insects sound terrible. wouldn’t dare to try it

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I don’t blame you one bit! I love ricotta too 🙂

  27. Christina

    Cheese lover over here!!! We spent some time in Italy and were able to do a Parmesan cheese tour in Modena. It was fascinating to learn about all of the cheeses and how they age. We also had ricotta in Amalfi and they would put it on bread with honey which they considered a delicacy. I think we would try the cheese with the insects just to say we tried it. Great post!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Nice! Parmesan in Modena must be extremely good. You’re a braver woman than me Christina; I left it to the locals!

  28. Sandy N Vyjay

    These are some amazing cheese varieties. Sardinia is, of course, an iconic place, but the amount and variety of cheese available here seems to be mind-boggling. I love the look of the Pecorino. The fact that it has a salty flavour makes it appealing to me. Would love to have this with roasted potatoes.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      That’s a great combination! And all the cheeses, maybe apart from the maggot one, are great choices!

  29. Beth Schoen

    I got really excited to discover that this post was about cheese. I’m super crazy for cheese after having a French roomate in Ireland for many years. We would even fly to France for her to bring some of her cheese back to Ireland. Loved reading about the maggot cheese. That was different!! Great post! You did an excellent job describing each cheese variety. Beth http://www.wisemommies.com

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Glad you enjoyed it Beth! And thank you for the kind comments 🙂

  30. Marky Ramone Go

    for someone like me who just love to eat cheese, i enjoy reading this article as it also taught me a lot of new knowledge about the vast world of cheese. I give you an A+ for effort 🙂

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Ha thank you! It was a hard job, but someone had to do it 😉

  31. PossesstheWorld

    Oh my goodness, another wonderful post about Sicily! I can almost taste, smell and feel the cheese in my mouth although I might not be so keen on the Casa Marzu. I think I shall have cheese for lunch, off to the deli right now

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Don’t worry, you’re not alone! I couldn’t stomach it either 🙂

  32. Paul

    Such a great list. So many cheeses I’d never even heard of, and sounds like, that’s for good reason! Casu Marzu….hmmm not sure about “maggot cheese” but I guess you’ve got to try it to know!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Honestly, I just couldn’t! The locals love it, but it’s one acquired taste I just couldn’t get the thought out of my head!

  33. Lauren Pears

    Love this post! I’ve heard Sardinian cheese is well worth trying – not sure I could stomach the maggot cheese though… I think Pecorino would be my favourite!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      The maggot cheese isn’t an easy one to try, I couldn’t do it 😀

  34. Alexandra

    Well, this must have been a cool post for you to write. I love cheese! And I love Sardinia 🙂
    Thank you for sharing

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Lol me too! It’s a wonderful island, with incredible cheese too

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