Baked Whole Sardines in a Vinegar Sauce – An Easy Recipe for Cooking Fresh Sardines
Fresh sardines are a staple food along the Mediterennean coast in southern Italy. A favorite preparation includes cleaning, gutting, and washing the sardines well followed by a quick dusting of standard flour or chickpea flour. Thereafter, the whole sardines are pan fried and quickly seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper (not to be confused with our butterflied, and fried, whole sardine recipe). We’ve covered the aformentioned frying method earlier and it does produce the tastiest version of whole sardines (you can also try grilling whole sardines), but when we’re not in the mood to pan fry we bake/broil the sardines in the oven and get very good results. The accompanying sauce is comprised of vinegar, onion, and mint (if you don’t have access to fresh mint you could use parsley).
If you don’t have access to fresh sardines but want to enjoy some version of sardines we suggest you buy some, high quality, canned sardinesin extra virgin olive oil and salt and enjoy with good bread and a salad.
On the nutritional side, sardines contain, ounce for ounce, more protein than steak, more potassium than bananas and more iron than spinach. And they pack the same omega 3-fat per ounce as salmon as well; which begs the question: why consistently purchase expensive salmon when whole sardines are available!
- 1 pound of fresh sardines (1 pound will yield about 6-7 medium sized sardines and are enough for two people if you include a few side dishes and especially if you’re using the fish as a primo)
- 3-4 tablespoons of flour (you can use chickpea flour if you want to be a Calabrian)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- whole dried hot red peppers (optional)
- 1 bunch of fresh mint (can substitute parsley)
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup of good, high quality, red wine vinegar
Have your fishmonger gut, descale, and clean your sardines. You can, of course, clean the sardines at home but it’s a laborious process. Note that sardines contain many, may tiny bones which should remove easily once cooked, but care should be taken when eating fresh sardines. Give the sardines another washing once you’re ready to cook the fish (usually on the same day of purchase) and dry well with paper towels. Sprinkle flour over the fish and thereafter shake off excess. Lay the fish on a large sheet pan that you’ve pre-brushed with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt over the fish and drizzle additional extra virgin olive oil over the sardines. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the fish. For the sauce, saute the finely diced red onions, extra virgin olive oil, and drumbled whole dried red peppers over a low heat. Add a bit of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and the red wine vinegar. Simmer the mixture until about 1/2 of the vinegar has reduced. Add freshly chopped mint or parsley and spoon over the whole sardines.