By: Chloë Sibley Writer & Journalist | Specialist Food & Arts

The best Venetian dishes are often defined by their fresh fish, and Sarde in Saor is a regional icon. Saor is the Venetian term for flavour, used to indicate a dressing of vinegar and onions, originally used by Venetian fisherman to preserve their stock. Discover Venice's culinary secrets with your private chef in any of our villas near Venice or Verona or create your version at home using chef Laura Franceschetti's recipe. 

Sarde in Saor is host to the oily sardines and their nutritional benefits, swimming in the acidic vinegar laced with white onions, their sweetness gently enhanced by a dash of sugar. The sharpness of the vinegar can be soothed by pine nuts boasting a buttery smoothness. This dish is one of many cicchetti options, Venetian snacks or tapas served in traditional bacari fashion. To discover more, check out our Bacari Guide to Venice.

Sarde in Saor

Serves 4 - Cook in 30 minutes, plus 24 hours to marinate in the fridge


- 700g di fresh sardines, gutted, scaled, heads removed
- 1 kg white onion, finely sliced
- 40g ‘00’ flour (or all-purpose flour)
- Sunflower oil for frying
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon of caster sugar
- 200ml white wine vinegar
- 40g raisins (optional)
- 40g pine nuts (optional)


Step 1

Begin by soaking your raisins in lukewarm water. Take your gutted, scaled (with heads removed) sardines, rinse under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Add the flour into a bowl and toss the sardines, making sure you remove any excess flour.

Step 2

Begin to fry the sardines in sunflower oil (the oil must be boiling!), making sure to brown on both sides. Once browned, drain and transfer onto a plate covered with kitchen paper, and salt. Place olive oil in a frying pan and on medium heat sweat the onions (around 10-15 minutes). Next add pepper, salt, sugar and vinegar, continue to cook until slightly reduced – this is your saor.

Step 3

In a small bowl begin to arrange a layer of fried sardines, covering with a layer of saor, adding raisins (dried and drained) and pine nuts. Repeat this until you finish all ingredients, ending with a layer of saor.  Pour any of the remaining liquid on top. 

Wrap with cling film, and leave to marinate in the fridge for 24 hours before serving cold. Buon appetito!

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