Sarde in Saor is one of the oldest dishes of the gastronomic tradition of Venice, dating back to the 13th century. This fisherman’s dish of sardines preserved in a marinade of sautéed onions is a reflection of the long journeys between the West and the East and the union of eastern spices with the local Venetian fish. Now a year-round presence, sarde in saor is traditionally prepared on the occasion of the Festa del Redentore on July 15th.
Recipe by Valeria Necchio
- 1kg whole sardines, gutted, scaled and heads removed
- 40g of plain flour, sifted
- sunflower oil, for frying
- 1kg white onion, finely sliced
- 160ml of white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- fine sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Rinse the sardines under cold water then pat dry with kitchen paper. Place the flour in a large bowl, add the sardines and toss to dust evenly. Shake off any excess.
- Fill two-thirds of a medium, high-sided frying pan with sunflower oil. Place it over a medium-high heat and wait until it reaches 180°C.
- Slip in a batch of sardines (6–8, depending on size). Fry for a couple of minutes on each side, or until crisp outside and opaque inside. Drain and transfer to a plate covered with kitchen paper. Salt generously and repeat with the remaining sardines, working in batches.
- Discard the oil with the exception of a very thin film – just enough to coat the bottom of the frying pan. Set this back over a medium heat, add the onions and sweat gently until very soft, stirring often so they don’t brown.
- Next, whisk the vinegar with the sugar and pour it in. Reduce the liquid to about half its volume, remove from the heat, taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange a layer of sardines in a large glass bowl. Cover with a layer of white onions and then repeat in layers until you have finished all the ingredients, finishing with onions. Pour any remaining cooking liquid on top.
- Leave to cool to room temperature before wrapping in cling film and setting in the fridge to marinate for 24 hours.