by Vannisa Biggio


I have always hung around the women of the house, observing their slow gestures, from their hands came the dough, the real dough. They stood around the old kitchen table overlooking the “carugéttu”, each with her own duties.


After reassembling the dough, which was divided into several parts to facilitate the work, they proceeded to prepare the fresh pasta for the holidays. And so, on that now worn-out wood, there were those who stretched out long strands, those who cut them into pieces, those who shaped them and finally those who arranged them. I see them again with their aprons soiled with flour, their caressing glances, aware that they would soon feed not only the bodies but also the souls of their guests. When they had finished their work, they covered the dough with white linen cloths, the only colour contrast being the monogram embroidered in one corner. Initials of one family or another, pieces of kit that I still love to use in my modern kitchen in a city flat.

I don’t know when this passion of mine began, but I have a clear idea of when I started to cultivate my hobby. At the end of the 1970s, after finishing high school, I started collecting cookery books and magazines. At that time, the glossy pages were full of tortellini with cream and pennette with vodka.
My mother gave me plenty of space, our roles in the kitchen remained quite distinct, as did our dishes: she with her family recipes and La Cucina Italiana, I grappling with Nouvelle Cuisine and Paul Boucuse.
I was always on the lookout for new dishes, I didn’t deal with our tradition, that was my mother’s field and I had the illusion that she would always be there! I started to write down the recipes from my house on scraps of paper, which I scattered around the house, in the middle of books: notes, annotations, asterisks, I was afraid of forgetting them. So I started writing to save our roots and leave my daughters my legacy: a trunk full of memories.

Vannisa Biggio

The pasta shapes varied according to the season, the housewives’ creativity or the diners’ tastes. Each family had its own recipe and way of making it. In our house, “curzétti” were very popular.



500 g of flour
3 eggs


Make a well in the flour, put the eggs and salt in the centre. Beat the eggs with a fork and with circular motions gather the flour all around. Then start to knead, adding a little warm water if necessary. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave it to rest for half an hour. After this time, form some loaves and cut them into chickpea-sized pieces. Press the piece of dough with your index and middle fingers and stretch it upwards with your thumb.

This is where the saying ‘Stiau cumme in curzéttu‘ comes from, used to indicate those who are stunned.

Boil the Curzétti in boiling salted water and season with Tuccu.


Tuccu sauce

Tuccu is the condiment par excellence, the emblem of Tabarkan Sunday. Fresh pasta and Tuccu are a perfect combination. It is an easy sauce to make, requiring only a little time but allowing you to prepare the pasta sauce, main course and side dish at the same time.
Tabarkan women were very practical.

Ingredients for the Tuccu sauce

1 kg of Cappello da prete or beef muscle
½ onion
1 clove of garlic
½ glass of white wine
1 l of tomato puree or peeled tomatoes
4 spoons of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
marjoram in winter and basil in summer
2 or 3 carrots
2 medium-sized potatoes


In a saucepan put the oil and the meat browning it well on all sides, inserting the whole onion halfway through this procedure.
Deglaze with the wine and add a whole clove of garlic.
When the alcohol has evaporated, add two glasses of hot water and continue to cook until a reduced sauce has formed.
At this point, add the tomato puree diluted with a little water, about ½ glass.
When the sauce begins to simmer, add the potatoes, peeled and washed, and the peeled carrots.
Continue cooking for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and the sauce is reduced.
At the end of cooking, add basil or marjoram.
Leave the meat to cool before slicing.
Place it on a serving plate with the potatoes and carrots, season with a little of the cooking juices and scent with marjoram leaves.


“Tuccu” is the condiment par excellence, the emblem of Tabarkan Sunday.


Casulli pasta with octopus sauce

In the past, casulli were made in the summer using freshly ground semolina obtained from the milling of freshly harvested wheat, and whole-grain casulli de nàigru are also typical.
The seasoning, also summery, is made from fresh, unpeeled tomatoes (cue pélle), fresh onion and lots of basil, all typical garden produce of the summer season.

I recommend them with an octopus sauce with an intense scent of the sea.

Ingredients for the casulli

500 g of semolina
300 g of water


Unlike Curzétti and Macaruin, no eggs are added to Casulli, they are a simple dough made from semolina and water.
After mixing the ingredients together, wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for half an hour.
After this, the dough is rolled out into finger-thick strands, from which chunks of the same size are cut. Using your index finger and middle finger, they are then placed on the Serneggiu, a flat-bottomed, grooved basket made of rushes, or on a small wooden gnocchi board.


Sauce with octopus

1 octopus 800 g/ 1 kg
2 garlic cloves
1 dried tomato
½ glass of red wine
800 g of peeled tomatoes
salt, pepper and chilli pepper
3 spoons of extra virgin olive oil


Cut the octopus into pieces, after having gutted and washed it well.
In a pan, put the oil, the slightly crushed garlic clove and a small piece of chilli pepper, if you like.
Add the octopus and fry until all the liquids released during cooking have evaporated and it has taken on a nice reddish colour “cu du purpu”.
Deglaze with wine (I use red because it makes the sauce browner, but if you prefer you can use white wine) and add the second clove of garlic.
When the alcohol has evaporated, add the dried tomatoes, washed and chopped, and a glass of hot water.
Cover and continue to cook, over a low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the peeled tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and continue cooking until the sauce is well reduced.
Before turning off the heat, check the consistency of the octopus, if you prick it with a fork the prongs will enter without difficulty, the octopus will be cooked, otherwise you will have to continue cooking by adding a little water.

Dress the casulli with the sauce.

Casulli al sugo con polpo

Cod and stockfish are certainly not products of the local fishery, but they were widely consumed, especially during the winter when, because of the bad weather, the fishing boats remained moored. While the men ashore were quivering in anticipation of returning to the sea, the women had recourse to preserved fish to vary their diet.
But don’t think that these are second best, they are real delicacies which were often served at Christmas Eve dinner.


Codfish in green


1 kg codfish
1 kg of potatoes
1 bunch of parsley
2 garlic cloves
3 spoons of extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of chilli pepper
green olives in brine


Soak the cod for two days, changing the water frequently.
Remove the skin and bones.
Peel the potatoes, wash them and cut them into chunks. Put them in a large pan with extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic, parsley and a pinch of chilli pepper.
Cover and cook for ten minutes.
Add the cod and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
Add salt if necessary.
At the end of the cooking time, add the olives and some raw parsley and serve.

La cucina di Vannisa

Baccalà in verde


A must in the galleys of pleasure boats.
Easy and versatile, it can be stuffed with cold meats and cheeses or sliced tuna.
A favourite at birthday parties for young and old alike.
Round or cut into tascelli, dressed with a good extra virgin olive oil, it is perfect even in its simplicity.


700 g of flour for pizzas and focaccias
400 g water
1 sachet of dehydrated brewer’s yeast
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar


Put all the ingredients in the bowl of the mixer and mix using the dough hook.
Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in the oven (with the light on) until doubled in size.
Roll out the dough on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Dress the surface with an emulsion of water and extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt flakes.
Bake in a preheated oven at maximum for 15 to 20 minutes.

Tip: you can use half a sachet of yeast, in which case the rising time will be longer.


Focaccia is our street food par excellence, marking out the days on the island: at breakfast with a cup of coffee, in the middle of the morning to quench your hunger, in the evening during the laps in the piazza!


Vannisa prepara la fügassa

Pé de pórcu (‘pigs feet’ dessert)

The typical desserts of the Tabarka cuisine are the Canestrelli, covered with icing and decorated with coloured sprinkles, which can be enjoyed at the end of a meal with a good glass of moscato.
The same dough is used to make different shapes for different religious festivals: Fantiñe at Christmas, Lüñe on Palm Sunday, Cavagnetti at Easter and Pé de pórcu, small cakes resembling a pig’s foot, for All Saints’ Day.


1kg of flour for cakes
4 eggs
300 g of lard
350 g of sugar
zest of one organic lemon
1 sachet of vanillin
2 packets of baking powder
½ tablespoon fennel seeds

For the icing

1 egg white
250-300g icing sugar
a pinch of salt
a few drops of lemon
coloured sprinkles

For the dough

Make a well in the flour. Put the eggs, sugar, vanilla, grated lemon peel and fennel seeds in the centre. Mix with the help of a fork, adding a little flour at each turn, and then knead with your hands. Add the lard, the sieved yeast sachets and continue to knead until an homogeneous dough is obtained, from which you will make rather thick loaves.
Cut the loaves obliquely into pieces, cut into them on one side and shape the loaf to resemble a pig’s foot.
Bake at 180º C in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Prepare the icing

Lightly whip the egg white to which you have added a pinch of salt and a few drops of lemon.
Stir in the icing sugar.
With a brush, cover the cakes with the icing, decorate with coloured sprinkles and leave to dry.

Ricotta cake

The small oven pot, which has come back into vogue in recent years, made its appearance on Saturday afternoon. The orange pan, with a non-stick bottom, was hermetically sealed with an aluminum lid.
From the holes, the scent of ricotta cake spread throughout the house.
The dessert was then transferred to a nice serving plate. I could only admire it, and was not allowed to taste it. It was the dessert for Sunday lunch, I had to be patient.


400g sheep ricotta cheese
400g of flour for cakes
400g of sugar
4 eggs
1 sachet of baking powder
1 lemon
seed oil for greasing the mould
2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar


In a bowl whip the whole eggs with the sugar.
Add the ricotta cheese, the grated lemon peel and finally the sieved yeast and flour.
Grease and flour a doughnut cake mould, pour in the mixture, sprinkle the surface with caster sugar (2-3 tablespoons).
Bake in a preheated oven at 180° C for 30 minutes.

Tips: This is the classic recipe, you can enrich it with chocolate chips or sultanas and nuts.
You can also replace the lemon with an orange, in which case you can also use the juice of the fruit.

Vannisa Biggio nel suo orto

Vannisa Biggio, born in Cagliari with parents from Carloforte, has lived in Carloforte until she got married, when for work reasons she had to leave the “rock”.
Now she lives and teaches in the Cagliari hinterland and in her free time dedicates herself to her favourite hobby: cooking.
Spurred on by the enthusiasm of her daughters, She first opened her Instagram profile @vannisabiggio and then the blog “Le ricette di Vannisa – ricette innovativ, profumo di ricordi”.
Her book “Flavours and seasons of Carloforte” is currently being published.


Photography: Cédric Dasesson