In this excerpt from Foods of the Italian Islands, Rome-based culinary expert and guide Katie Parla makes a case for why Sardinia is the best of the many islands surrounding Italy. This recipe from that book for suppa cuata sure helps make the case.
Gallura-Style Bread Casserole
This old-fashioned bread casserole is a classic of Gallura in the northeastern part of Sardinia. I don’t totally endorse a visit there in the high season (though I love every single other part of the island), because it is totally inundated with tourists thanks to the development of the nearby Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) by Aga Khan IV and others in the second half of the twentieth century. For lack of a better word, they decimated the local culture to make way for tacky nightclubs and posh resorts. The coastal restaurants don’t offer much in the way of traditional Sardinian flavors, catering instead to an international palate, but there are a few remaining pockets of inland rural areas and working farms where you can find the simple peasant food of the zone. This suppa cuata (called zuppa gallurese in Italian), a sheep’s-milk cheese and bread casserole, is one regional dish that has persevered, and it brings together the traditional cornerstones of gallurese cuisine: shepherding and baking. Unless you’re making this in Sardinia, you’ll have to replace the typical cheeses, panedda or casizolu, with another good melting cheese like provolone.
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing
- 1½ pounds very stale or toasted crusty bread or Pane Siciliano al Sesamo (page 173), cut into ¾-inch-thick slices
- 12 ounces provolone or low-moisture mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (about 3 cups)
- 5 ounces Pecorino Sardo or Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 6 cups lamb stock, beef stock, or vegetable broth, warmed
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F Lightly grease a medium baking dish with oil.
2. Place as much of the bread in the prepared baking dish as will fit in one layer. Further cut pieces to make sure the entire bottom surface of the baking dish is covered. Sprinkle one-third of the provolone on top, then sprinkle with one-third of the pecorino and one-third of the mint and parsley. Repeat with another layer of bread, another third of the cheese, and another third of the herbs. Repeat with a final layer of bread, followed by the remaining cheese, then herbs.
3. Pour 4 cups of the stock evenly over the casserole. Add more stock 1/2 cup at a time until the bread absorbs the liquid but isn’t swimming in it. You may not need all the stock. Bake until the cheese has melted, about 30 minutes, then broil for about a minute to brown the cheese. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm. Suppa cuata will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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Reprinted by permission of Parla Publishing, LLC.. © 2023 by Katie Parla. All rights reserved.
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