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Guardians of Sardinian Bread Tradition - Tundu Carasau of Oliena

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Pane Carasau and Sardinia: an ancient relationship with a great history and tradition, and when well made, with a fantastic taste of sourdough, flour, salt, and maybe olive oil.

However, our first encounter with this bread was a total disappointment. We ate it during our first visit to Sardinia at a tourist restaurant on the beach, and it tasted absolutely bland. The same story repeated itself pretty much everywhere we went.

 

The breads we bought afterwards in a regular supermarket were pretty much the same, so we really wondered: Is that all? Should this much-praised Sardinian product really taste like nothing? Fortunately, this was just the beginning of the story that led us to the true Pane Carasau, right where it was born, in Oliena, in the core of Sardinia's wild region Barbagia. 

Our first contact with Mario Rubanu's Pane Carasau

Long before we founded tresmundi, the first product we brought back for ourselves and our family was Ilió and Lanaitho, the extraordinary olive oils made by the amazing Cooperativa Olioliena. This is how tresmundi actually began (you can read our full story here). This is how we met Giovanna Congiu, one of the people to whom we are forever grateful for introducing us to the fantastic producers and the true secrets of Sardinian products from the world's first blue zone.

So it happened that with our second order of olive oil, we asked Giovanna if she happened to know a good producer of Pane Carasau. We told her about our disappointing experiences and wondered if we might be the ones who didn't appreciate it properly. She directly referred us to Mario Rubanu and his small family-run bakery, promising to send us something to try. She also told us that Tundu, Mario's bakery, uses the same olive oil – Ilio – for their bread that we loved so much! No further words were needed! The trust was already there, the expectations were high, and now we could hardly wait to get our hands on it.

The first bite of Pane Carasau Gucciau - The crunchy sourdough bread with olive oil and salt

It is hard to put into words something so simple and utterly delicious. We regret that taste cannot be captured in photos. We regret that we cannot relive that one moment when we first tasted the "Carasau Gucciau (Guttiau)" the Pane Carasau bread with olive oil and salt.

 

Its crispiness was unique. The taste of freshly baked bread, as if we had just opened the oven, the smell of unrefined flour, the olive oil hand-spread on each slice of bread, along with a bit of sea salt. If fantastic is the word that expresses the highest form of appreciation, then this bread was fantastic. And suddenly, everything we knew about Pane Carasau was rewritten by this one unforgettable moment.

History of  Tundu Carasau  - The small family-run bakery in Oliena

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Baking bread - especially Pane Carasau - used to be a well-established custom in every house in Oliena. It was a family tradition carried out once a month, a tradition that brought family members together, like a kind of communal cooking and eating. However, like many other traditions, this one gradually disappeared.

 

But as Mario says, the tradition may have vanished, but not its memories, its taste, its aromas. The true flavor of Carasau bread was particularly significant to Mario.

"In our area, many people no longer bake bread at home. They remember the real Carasau and didn't really like the industrial products, which were mostly intended for export" Mario said.

The memory of it and the associated knowledge of how real Carasau should taste were reason enough for Mario to open a bakery in his parents' house. It's the year 2005 when Mario, together with his brother and his parents, opens "Tundu - Piccola panetteria artigiana" - which translates to nothing other than "The small artisan bakery" - which, after more than 15 years of passion and dedication, received the coveted "Pane e Territorio" award from "Bread and Baker of Italy" in 2022.

Almost twenty years later, Tundu bakes 180 kg of fresh Pane Carasau bread every day in the small bakery beneath his parents' house. 180 kg of handmade bread, every single slice!

 

Compared to industrial bakeries, this is a micro-bakery, says Mario. Could he bake more? "At the moment, this is the best we can do without compromising the bread" says Mario. And that's forever a no go!

Su Ghimisone
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