Sardines in saor

Sardines in saor

Modern Italian Food
Earl Carter

Another old-fashioned dish from the days before refrigeration, when ways had to be found to preserve fish.

Vinegar, being acid, is a strong preserving agent, and the Venetians invented a method of preserving sardines – the most abundant fish in the Adriatic Sea – in a vinegar-based marinade. They also like to incorporate sweet sultana grapes to balance the sourness of the vinegar. These were grown on the sunny islands of Greece – and many of the vineyards were owned by the Venetians themselves.


Quantity Ingredient
24 sardines
plain flour, for dusting
oil, for frying
4 medium-sized brown onions, thinly sliced
500ml white vinegar
50g sultanas
50g pine nuts
salt and pepper


  1. Scale the sardines and remove the heads, leaving the rest of the body whole. Dust lightly with flour.
  2. Heat a good quantity of oil for frying in a large pan and fry the fish. When the fish are done, drain on absorbent paper. Discard the oil.
  3. Heat a little fresh oil in a pan and gently fry the onions until they soften. Add the vinegar, then remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
  4. Arrange a layer of sardines in a smallish non-reactive dish. Sprinkle on some sultanas and pine nuts and a good layer of onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and repeat until all the ingredients have been used.
  5. Pour on the vinegar, then cover and refrigerate for a couple of days to allow the flavours to develop and intensify.
  6. They are nice on their own, or served as part of an antipasto selection.
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