Italian Sardines Scapece

Sardines on white background
Patrizia Savarese / Getty Images
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 4 servings

This is the Italian version of escabeche, the dish in which meat is cooked, then marinated in a vinegary, spicy sauce and served either cold or hot. Scapece (ska-PECH-ay) is a simple dish once you have split your fresh sardines; instructions are linked below. If you can't find sardines for this recipe, use mackerel, herring or any other full-flavored fish.


  • 1 dozen ​sardines (fresh)
  • 2 lemons (juice of)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flour (for dusting)
  • 2 large onions (sliced)
  • 1 cup white wine (or cider vinegar)
  • 1 head of garlic (chopped)
  • 2 chiles (hot, such as serrano or Thai)
  • 1/2 cup mint (finely chopped)

Steps to Make It

  1. Rinse the split sardines and lay them on a cookie sheet in which the lemon juice, salt, and water cover the whole bottom of the sheet. You want the sardines to be laying in a shallow pool of lemon juice-salt-water. Leave them there for 30 minutes, turning once.

  2. Meanwhile, saute the onions and chiles in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until they are just starting to color around the edges. Add the vinegar and simmer until half the vinegar cooked away. Turn off the heat and set aside.

  3. Pat the sardines dry and dust with flour. What kind of flour? Any will do, but we use a chickpea flour, which is used often in Southern Italy and adds a nutty flavor.

  4. Fry the sardines in the rest of the olive oil over medium-high heat and set aside to drain on a rack.

  5. Mix the chopped mint in with the onion and vinegar mixture, and lay some on a plate or shallow bowl. Top with the sardines. This dish is equally good covered in the sauce and left to marinate for up to three days in the fridge.

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