Baked Sardines and Artichokes
Sarde al Forno Con Carciofi
In an earlier post I mentioned a recent trip to Puglia in southern Italy where I met Aldo in his beautiful trattoria. He invited me back to have a night in his restaurant and celebrate with a full selection of artichoke dishes on his menu. I’m going to be heading down there in late April to help him out in the kitchen for a couple of days and try to record as many recipes as he throws at me.
This recipe comes from Puglia known for its its rich and fertile agricultural terrain, producing the largest amount of olive oil and vegetables (including artichokes) in Italy. It is also blessed with some of the most stunning and unspoiled coastline remaining in the country and so boasts a healthy presence of fish and seafood on menus but I’m not sure that this dish is in Aldo’s repertoire as he is not a coastal dweller.
I made this preparation as simple as I could for myself but if you can make this dish any easier to prepare, please let me know. I would have preferred smaller sardines as the ones I used were probably a little over-sized. Smaller sardines are easier to handle and easier to eat because you don’t have to be too concerned about the bones.
Traditionally called Tortiera di Sarde e Carciofi , which translates to cake tin with sardines and artichokes, this dish is made in a deep baking tray with alternating layers of sardines and artichokes. I chose to try something a little different so I could play with the presentation but I kept all the same ingredients. If you use smaller sardines you could probably serve 3 sardines per portion instead of the 2 which I have used for this post.
Ingredients (serves 4)
12 small sardines (3 per portion)
3 tablespoons hard matured (sharp) pecorino (grated)
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 handful parsley leaves (chopped)
1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
1 lemon (for lemon water)
salt & pepper
To prepare the sardines:
if you are not a fan of cleaning and gutting fish, ask your fish monger to gut them for you. If you think you can sneak another favour in, ask if they also remove the spine of the fish.
Once you have gutted and cleaned the fish, gently flatten the fish by splaying it as open as you can.
Ease a finger underneath the spine and gently detach the spine from the flesh. Try to do this without removing too much flesh with the spine. Leave the tail attached to the sardine.
Give it a final rinse with water and put your sardines aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the drained artichokes, chopped garlic, most of the chopped parsley, breadcrumbs and grated pecorino,
Line a flat baking tray with some baking paper and lightly oil the paper.
Now arrange four little mounds of your mixed artichokes on the tray. ( you will be repeating this process two more times so judge the quantity for yourself)
Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Place one sardine, skin side up, on each mound and completely cover the artichoke mixture.
Place the next little mound of artichokes on the sardine and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Salt and pepper.
Arrange the next sardine so you begin to form a fan shape.
Repeat with the artichoke mix and the last sardine.
drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper.
Now you should have a layered fan of sardines and artichokes.
Finally dust the top of your layers with breadcrumbs, parsley, a little more grated pecorino, and a final drizzle of olive oil.
Place on a lower (not the lowest) rung in a pre-heated oven at 180C / 356F for about 30 minutes or until the tops are nicely golden.
The cheese will melt and a little of it will run out the side and bake on the paper.
Remove from the tray with a wide flat spatula and serve one stack per plate.
I put some extra artichokes on the tray to bake and also garnished the plates with these.
Ideal with a light salad, a glass of crisp white wine or sparkling mineral water.
If you have removed the spine the remaining bones are so small and thin that they shouldn’t pose a problem to eat.