Sardinia: island of beaches and of mystery. The Romans called it “the island of the silver veins”, because of the endless wealth beneath its surface. Today it’s more like the island of golden sands, both for its beaches – possibly the best in Europe – and the wealthy who flock there.
But there’s another side to Sardinia: Barbagia, the mountainous entroterra, or inland part. Here, life carries on as it has for hundreds of years: shepherds following their flocks across the mountains, villages balancing on crags below prehistoric settlements – and the production of some the best torrone, or nougat, you’ll ever taste.
There are just three ingredients: honey, nuts and egg white
Sardinia is known for its torrone, which locals think was brought over by their former Spanish rulers. Tonara – a tiny mountain town, bang in the middle of the island – is where the best stuff is made.
The Marotto family has been making torrone for 100 years, since Pietro Peddes started making it and doing the rounds of local festivals, selling it from his horse and cart.
Today, his daughter-in-law, 81-year-old matriarch Antonietta is in charge of the family operation, assisted by her son Angelo. Not only is it all rigorously made by artisan methods, but where other producers make wild and wonderful flavours, Antonietta sticks to the traditional ones: walnut, almond and hazelnut.
There are just three ingredients to each slab: honey, egg white and nuts.
No sugar, no stabilisers or flavourings – this is torrone as it’s been made for hundreds of years
It’s those pure ingredients that make Sardinian torrone different from the nougat you’ve tried in the past. The high honey content means it’s stickier – neither brittle nor crumbly – and although it’s sweet, it’s not overpoweringly so.
Sardinian honey is extraordinary – fragrant and intensely flavoured by the wildflowers that grow on the island. Up here in the mountains of Barbagia, the honey tastes even stronger.
Sardinians prefer nougat in summer, when honey is at its best
We’re selling Antonietta’s torrone in its traditional three flavours.
Walnut is best if you don’t have a sweet tooth – the tang of the walnut almost cancels out the sweetness, making the honey more rich than sugary. This is a very different kind of nougat, but it’s probably our favourite.
Hazelnut is the closest you’ll get to the kind of nougat you’ll have tried before – it’s a great all-rounder, and its easy sweetness is good for kids.
Almond is also phenomenal – like the walnut, it binds beautifully with the honey, only without the tang.
It comes in different formats, but the torrone is the same, whatever size you buy.
We’re also selling honey made by a friend of Angelo – different types, made from mountain plants. Varieties include millefiori (thousand flowers), and other plant-specific ones include sulla (a flowering herb used in pasture which produces light-coloured honey), asfodelo (a Sardinian wildflower from the lily family) and chestnut (which has a stronger, less sweet tang). If you have specific requests, please let us know.
Shipping is included in Antonietta’s prices.
You taste our love for tradition in our torrone, and in a way you’re tasting our love of life. Mum has always made it with so much passion: Angelo Peddes
About the area: DH Lawrence likened the white houses of Tonara, clinging to the green mountainside, to a “new Jerusalem” in Sea and Sardinia. Barbagia is a remote, completely unspoiled area of Sardinia. It’s also home to one of five global ‘Blue Zones’ – regions of exceptional longevity. Sardinia’s centenarians have been studied by geneticists. Tonara sits amongst the Gennargentu mountain range, home to a national park and countless prehistoric settlements.
How we know them: We ‘met’ Antonietta and Angelo over the phone two years ago, interviewing them for a story about Sardinian food. Six months later, in Sardinia for work, we drove for an entire day to taste what they’d told us about on the phone. It was worth every hairy mountain switchback to get there.