Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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Lately, Italian media have talked a lot about the “Sardine” movement. But do you know the qualities of the real sardines? Here a guide that will help you discover more about it and two tasty and nutrient recipes

Sardines. A name echoing through the Italian media in recent weeks and will continue to do so, given the many initiatives planned. But why, sardines? And above all, do you know the great qualities of this little fish?

Sardines, anchovies, herring: differences and how to recognize them

How can we recognize the differences?

Above the anchovy and  below the sardine

Sardines are larger than anchovies, and some can even reach 20-25cm in length. Their snout is prognathous, ie, the lower jaw is slightly protruding, while on the contrary, the anchovies have a pointed snout. The sardines, then, are more bulging and much less tapered than the anchovies.

And what about the herring?

Herring is a completely different fish. They are larger than sardines (on average, they do not exceed 30 cm but can be even 45 cm long, while the maximum weight is 1.1 kg) and can be mainly recognized by the type of scales, which are small and more tenacious. Furthermore, herring comes from the Atlantic.

How to recognize a fresh sardine?

A bit like recognizing fresh fish in general. Here are seven basic rules:

1. Unlike what is generally believed, fresh fish is firmer than the one that has been on the counter for some time: if you shake it moves and bends less

2. The smell must be pleasant and must not recall the ammonia

3. The scales must be adherent to the body

4. The color must be bright and not at all opaque

5. The gills must be almost red

6. The eye must not be sunken, and the pupil must be black

7. The belly must be rigid and close to the muscles

Where and when do you catch sardines?

The Adriatic Sea is particularly rich in sardines, whose color is more green than those of the Tyrrhenian Sea. So the sardines are very common in the Mediterranean. Usually, they live in huge shoals, which reach a hundred thousand individuals (hence the name of the protest movement in Italy). From March to September are the months in which it is easier to be found: when the temperatures get warmer, the fish blue, in fact, dominates the market stalls.

Are sardines safe?

Yes, sardines are fish that do not suffer from the accumulation of pollutants such as mercury. This depends on the fact that the sardines feed on plankton, which is the basis of the food chain. As a result, they do not ingest metals.

Furthermore, ecologically sardines, like herring or anchovies, are not at risk of extinction, so they are used in our diet and those of raised bigger fish.

The organoleptic qualities of the sardine

Especially during summer, the sardine meat is slightly fat, and this means that its organoleptic characteristics change rapidly.

In general, it is excellent food, often recommended by personal trainers and athletic trainers. This is because they have high protein content, and 64% of their meat is made up of proteins. There are also many vitamins, especially B12, B3, B2, A, and D.

Sardines also have oligo-elements such as phosphorus, sodium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and selenium.

Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are few, only 5%, while the quantity of unsaturated fats belonging to the famous omega 3, EPA, and DHA is high. These are good fats, which fight cholesterol always contained in sardines and whose quality varies according to the period.

How should we eat sardines?

As with chestnuts, it is clear that even the cooking method changes nutritional values and increases or decreases the intake of calories.

The sardines in oil contain a higher quantity of cholesterol due to the contribution of the oil, and also calories are more. For 100 grams of product, 120 are the calories of fresh sardine and two hundred for the one in oil.

What are the benefits of consuming sardines?

As mentioned, sardines are highly recommended by dieticians and nutritionists. The first benefit is linked to omega 3, which allows cholesterol to be kept at bay. Also, the triglycerides are lowered by the consumption of sardines; this helps the cardiovascular system preventing atherosclerosis and supporting the well-being of the heart and arteries, to which vitamin B12 also contributes.

Omega-3s are always good for the brain and prevent degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and neuronal death. Furthermore, sardines also contain phosphorus.

Vitamin D promotes bone health and calcium absorption. Besides, proteins help the muscles, while vitamin A is essential for the eyesight. In short, sardines are recommended for everyone, and in particular, for pregnant women, adolescents, and sportsmen.

Who should not eat sardines?

Some categories should limit their consumption and even not consume them at all. Those who suffer from gout or related diseases, in fact, should not eat them, because they contain a lot of purine, capable of carrying an accumulation of uric acid. This accumulation, then, leads to kidney stones formation, so even those suffering from this disease would do better not to consume sardines.

Furthermore, if sardines in oil are not recommended for those who have to lose weight, those in salt should not be eaten by those suffering from hypertension. Finally, also people treated with isoniazid, a drug for tuberculosis, should avoid them.

Two excellent sardine recipes

Sarde in Saor

We talked about it in the article on bacari, but certainly, sardines in saor are one of the tastiest dishes to make with sardines. Old recipe, born on Venetian fishing boats.


Clean the sardines, remove scales, head, and entrails in addition to the fins. Then heat the oil to fry on a pan, in the meantime, flour the fish and, once the oil is hot, start to fry the sardines. Immediately afterward, heat two spoons of oil for the onions, which you will have finely chopped and poured into the pan together with coriander, pepper, and cloves. Once drained, place them on the bottom of a tiella (kind of focaccia), on which you will then spread the sardines. Continue creating layers and sprinkle pine nuts and raisins (which should be previously soaked in white wine), and at the end, add the vinegar. Do not consume sardines in saor immediately: the dish is made with vinegar to combat scurvy and remain on ships for a long time, so the fishermen used to consume it after some time, and not soon after the preparation.

Sardine alla scottadito

A very simple recipe that keeps calories low. Some prefer to flavor them before cooking them with a little oil, pepper, rosemary, and aromatic herbs (leaving the sardines to marinate for an hour or so), while others add only the oil. The important thing is to clean the sardines and cook them carefully to kill the anisakis, which dies at a temperature equal to or above 60°C. In this case, cooking them on the grill does not require scaling the fish. Finally, do not let them dry too much and try to preserve a certain softness of the meat.


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Giuliano Jr. Alberti

Giuliano Jr. Alberti

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Una laurea in Informatica e un master in Content Management & Editoria 2.0 per campare. La pizza per sfamarmi, una moto (criminosamente semi-sfrenata) per rischiare la vita, due figli per apprezzarla. Insomma, a quarant'anni, continuo a farmi crescere la coda. Rock It!