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Sardines in Saor Recipe



This recipe from Chef Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Café, in New York City, is one of his favorite dishes for the Italian ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes’ on Christmas Eve. It’s also served at the restaurant during the holiday season.

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  • 6 large sardines, scaled and filleted
  • Salt
  • Buttermilk, for dipping fillets
  • Arborio rice flour (3 parts flour, 2 parts semolina flour, 1 part Arborio rice, finely ground), for dredging
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 2-inch rosemary sprig
  • 4 tablespoons golden raisins
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Toasted pine nuts, for garnish
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish


Season fillets generously with salt. Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Have the buttermilk and Arborio rice flour ready in separate shallow dishes. 

Dip each fillet in buttermilk, letting the excess drip off, and dredge in the flour. Transfer each fillet as it is coated to a wax paper lined baking sheet, skin side up. 

In a 12-inch pan over high heat, add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the fillets, skin side down, and fry until golden brown. Then, flip over and cook for 30 seconds on the other side. Remove from pan and place in an earthenware dish.

Pour off ½ of the oil left in the pan and, over high heat, add onions and rosemary sprig. Cook for 3-4 minutes then add the raisins, stir to combine. Add wine, vinegar, sugar and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute.

Pour liquid over sardines in dish and let cool.  Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap and let marinate overnight.

When ready to serve, place the sardines on a platter, skin side up, with the onions and raisins strewn over the top. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.