Sarde in saor

This dish is customary for the Redentore celebration in Venice, and its origins can be traced back to seafaring traditions:

“Food for sailors and stock on the mainland” is its definition by Bepo Maffioli.

A culinary creation due to need, but nevertheless brilliant

An extremely simple fish recipe, which is so deep-rooted in Venetian culture and life, that it represents the Veneto region itself.

First of all, saor, in Venetian dialect, means “flavour”. Sardines, onions and vinegar: these are its masterly combined ingredients, with a 2:1 ratio, i.e. 2 kilos onions for each kilo sardines.

Sardines are a meagre fish and must be deep-fried, whereas the onions must be first stewed, then lightly fried and, finally, be added some vinegar and be reduced. This mixture doesn’t simply flavour the sardines, but preserves them, as well, given that they need to stand at least a couple of days, in order to be flavoured enough.

There are, besides, some small and refined variations on the theme: soaked raisins and/or pine nuts can be added to the mixture of onions and vinegar, alternatively white wine can either completely or partly replace vinegar to get a more delicate, and less strong, flavour.

The ingredients are therefore few and simple, but their high-quality is required for a good outcome: sardines must be ultra fresh, and onions must come from the area of Venice, since the saor is made from Chioggia’s white onions.

The dish is best served cold with slices of white polenta.

The recipe of the sarde in saor

Ingredients (for 4):

  • 700 g fresh sardines
  • 1,4 Kg white onions
  • soft wheat flour, as much as needed
  • peanut oil, as much as needed
  • extra-virgin olive oil, as much as needed
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 spoonful of sugar
  • half a glass of vinegar
  • 2 spoonfuls of raisins (optional)
  • 1 spoonful of pine nuts (optional)

Preparation method

Discard the sardines’ heads, scrape out their entrails and wash them under cold water.  Dry them and cover them with flour, then sieve them to remove excess flour.

Now it’s time to fry them in peanut oil, which must be boiling. When they’re browned on both sides, lay them on blotting paper and sprinkle them with salt.

The next step is preparing the onions: cut them into thin slices and fry them lightly in olive oil. As soon as they’re golden, add pepper, salt, sugar and vinegar and let the last one evaporate. After that, you can remove the pan from your gas ring. And this your saor.

Now take a bowl and alternate a layer of sardines with a layer of saor and raisins – previously soaked in lukewarm water – and pine nuts. In order for the flavours to mix perfectly, you must let your dish stand for at least one day. Don’t forget to serve them cold! You’ll make all mouths water.


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