Zuppa con Sarde (Borlotti and Sardine Soup)

September  6, 2016
0 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

This is a recipe that I discovered when I was researching for my cookbook, The London Cookbook. Ruthie Rogers, the chef-proprietor of The River Cafe in London is actually American married to a Florentine named Richard Rogers. You may recognize his name as the architect of the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the iconic Lloyd’s of London. If you’ve ever been to The River Cafe, you will no doubt have noticed the warm modernist and terribly glamorous design. It’s a sexy restaurant, not fussy, not flashy, just sexy. Just sleek enough, just enough color, a long cool bar, flattering lighting that isn’t the usual shade of warm yellow, but rather more dusk-like. And then there’s the food… The best ingredients cooked just enough to reveal their best essence. The brazino is brazino on its best day, so too the veal chop, the burrata, the nettles. For years, I overlooked the soups, my gaze travelling immediately to my favorite pastas and risottos. But this soup changed that. It’s classic agrodolce (sweet and sour). In fact, it hits it all—salty, sweet, sour, bitter. Add to that soupy, creamy from beans, and crisp from the toasted ciabatta, and you have one exciting bowl of soup. Consider this the polar opposite of a French velouté. Texture here is friend, not foe. But beware too: the timid among us may need a bit of coaxing when faced with sardines. Sardines might have a bad rap, but, if ever there was a soup to redeem them—this is that soup.
Aleksandra Crapanzano

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 a red onion, finely sliced
  • 3 salted anchovy fillets
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon sultanas, soaked in hot water
  • 2 garlic cloves: 1 whole, 1 finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 12 whole sardines, filleted
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 11 ounces borlotti beans, cooked
  • 6 ciabatta bread
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • extra virgin olive oil
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and gently cook until soft and translucent but not brown. Add the anchovies and crush into the onion, then add the pine nuts, sultanas, sliced garlic, and fennel seeds and stir to combine.
  2. Lay the sardines in the pan and season. Pour over just enough boiling water to cover the sardines, then cover and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, or until the sardines are cooked. Add the borlotti beans and stir, crushing and breaking up the sardines.
  3. Toast the bread and rub lightly with garlic on one side. Place each of these crostini in a bowl and ladle over the soup. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil to serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Rhonda35
  • Aleksandra
  • Joan

5 Reviews

Aleksandra October 13, 2016
It will taste less fresh - obviously - but the flavor will run deep, which is nice. Just avoid salting the dish until you've tasted it. And let us know how it works! I've never tried it with canned sardines, but they are certainly more convenient. I hope that helps. I usually think fresh is best for those who aren't yet sold on sardines, but if you have a stock... you clearly are!
Joan October 13, 2016
hi there! looks pretty tasty, but how much would this recipe suffer if i used canned sardines? i have a healthy stock of them in the pantry...
Aleksandra October 11, 2016
Hi Rhonda,

Yes, fresh is the way to go here. They are a revelation if you've only used canned. Much lighter, fresher, less salty and fishy. I hope you like the recipe. Let me know if you have other questions. Oh, and I think something light and lemony for dessert would work well, so check out the Amalfi Eton Mess, which is seriously delicious.

Rhonda35 October 11, 2016
Hi Aleksandra -

Thanks for the timely reply and the dessert suggestion! I have had fresh sardines, grilled, several times and love them. Having said that, I've only ever had them in Europe and don't see them at my local fish market more than once or twice a year. Is there another fish you would suggest as a replacement?

Also, best wishes to you with The London Cookbook - I can't wait to get a copy! During "Family Week" in June, Amanda tempted our palates with several delicious recipes from the book. :-)
Rhonda35 October 11, 2016
Are the sardines fresh or canned, Aleksandra?