Baked Sardines is an easy, quick and very tasty Italian fish recipe that captures all the goodness of fresh fish prepared with simple ingredients.
It consists of a casserole dish with layers of sardines topped with breadcrumbs, parmigiano, parsley, thyme and pine nuts. It’s a recipe that skillfully combines the flavors of the sea with those of the Mediterranean!
When it comes to Italian cuisine, seafood is an essential part of the gastronomic heritage. Sardines, in particular, are a popular fish in Italian kitchens and a staple of Mediterranean cuisine. These small, oily fish are full of flavor and packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, making them a perfect addition to any diet.
To get the most out of this dish, it’s important that the sardines are very fresh and well cleaned. Once cleaned, they should be cut open.
Prepared this way, the sardines will be soft and juicy on the inside, but with a crunchy, very tasty top. On the other hand, if you have purchased pre-cleaned sardines, preparing the recipe will only take a moment!
Whether you are a seafood lover or looking for a new way to incorporate more healthy fish into your diet, this easy Italian Baked Sardines recipe is a must-try. With its simple ingredients and quick preparation, you can enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal in no time!
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How to Make Baked Sardines Recipe
- Prep Time: 20 Min
- Cook Time: 15 Min
Note: These are the servings for a 15 x15 cm ( 6 x 6 inch) square baking dish or 12 x18 cm ( 5 x 7,5 inch) rectangular baking dish
- 18 Sardines (about 250 g – 9 oz)
- 60 g (1/2 cup) of breadcrumbs
- 20 g (2 tablespoon) of fresh parsley
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 1 clove of garlic
- 35 g (1/4 cup) of grated Parmigiano Cheese
- 30 g (1/4 cup) of pine nuts
- 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Fine salt and pepper to taste.
Baked Sardines is a very easy to make Italian recipe. The only difficult and tedious step is cleaning and gutting the sardines. If you bought frozen sardines, let them thaw completely first.
So now we will show you how to clean fresh sardines; you never know, maybe you will be lucky and find them clean! But if not, here are the step by step instructions to clean them.
How to Clean Sardines
Step 1) – Place one sardine at a time on a chopping board and use a sharp knife to cut open the belly and remove the guts, then cut off the head and finally the backbone. Gently remove the spine down to the tail.
Step 2) – Rinse them under running water, then open them, taking care not to break the sardines, and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Set aside.
How to Make Italian Baked Sardines Recipe
Step 1) – In a small blender, chop the garlic clove, parsley, and thyme.
Start the blender and coarsely chop the ingredients without reducing them to a pulp.
Step 2) – Pour the chopped mixture into a bowl and add the breadcrumbs, grated Parmigiano cheese and EVO oil. Mix everything together.
Step 3) – Now grease the bottom of a baking dish. Arrange the sardines horizontally in one layer. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Top with the chopped breadcrumb, garlic, parsley and thyme mixture you prepared earlier.
Step 4) – Arrange another layer of sardines, taking care to arrange them in the opposite direction to the first layer.
Season moderately with salt and pepper and cover the entire surface with more aromatic breadcrumbs.
PLEASE NOTE: If you wish, and if you have sardines left over, you can make a third layer. We recommend making a maximum of 3 layers and no more. Otherwise the sardines will not cook properly.
Step 5) – Finish with more flavored breadcrumbs, a drizzle of EVO oil and the pine nuts on top.
Step 6) – Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C (390°F) for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before serving this Italian-style baked sardines casserole.
How to Store Baked Sardines
You can store baked sardines for up to 1-2 days in the refrigerator. Best if in an airtight container.
When ready to eat, reheat the sardines 5 minutes in the oven or enjoy them at room temperature.
We don’t recommend freezing them.
Which are the Best Sardines to Bake, Fresh or Frozen?
Both fresh and frozen sardines can be used for baking, but there are some differences to consider.
Fresh sardines are typically more flavorful and have a better texture than frozen sardines, but they can be harder to find and may be more expensive. They are also more perishable and need to be cooked soon after purchase.
Frozen sardines, on the other hand, are more widely available and can be stored for longer periods of time, making them more convenient. However, they may have a slightly softer texture and milder flavor than fresh sardines.
Can I Substitute Sardines for Anchovies in this Recipe?
Yes, you can use anchovies instead of sardines.
Many people often confuse sardines with anchovies, but the latter are thinner, tapered and smaller.
Compared to sardines, anchovies have a more intense flavor and darker, reddish flesh.
Both of these very similar fish are excellent for this recipe.
Baked Sardines: A Cooking Tip
One of the characteristics of this recipe is that it should be a little crispy on top, especially around the edges of the pan.
The pine nuts on the surface should also toast and turn golden.
If the sardines are not well browned and crispy, you can turn on the grill function of the oven for a few minutes at the end of the baking.
Italian Baked Sardines: Some Variations
Sarde al Forno is an ancient and delicious Italian recipe that we find in many variations all along the Italian coast, from Sicily to Liguria.
The ingredients vary slightly according to local customs and products.
Breadcrumbs are always present. Sometimes chopped cherry tomatoes are added to the mixture of breadcrumbs and herbs.
Sometimes, especially in the southern regions of Italy, Parmigiano cheese is replaced by Pecorino.
In Liguria, they often add chopped Taggiasca olives and marjoram.
Finally, on the Adriatic coast, they often use rosemary instead of or together with parsley, which is very common in this area.
Sarde al Forno alla Siciliana: a Wonderful Variation!
Sicilian Baked Sardines is a fish casserole made with the same ingredients as Sarde a Beccafico or Pasta con le Sarde.
Orange zest, lemon zest, raisins, pine nuts and wild fennel are chopped and mixed in breadcrumbs with oil and a little citrus juice. A dish that includes all the typical flavors of Sicily!
With parsley and parmigiano or with wild fennel, with a touch of citrus and raisins, baked sardines are an irresistible, tasty and nutritious dish. A must try!
Baked Sardines with Potatoes
For a more complete and substantial dish that can definitely be considered a one-pot meal, you can alternate layers of sardines with layers of potatoes.
Boil 1 large potato without the skin for 10 minutes and then slice thinly.
As described in the recipe, alternate one layer of sardines, one of breadcrumbs and herbs, one of potatoes, and so on until you run out of ingredients.
However, to ensure even cooking, do not make more than two layers of potatoes and two of sardines.
Bake according to the recipe above.