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Often called pesce azzurro; a small one is a sardina. Italians like them fresh more than canned, as in the classic Sicilian dishes pasta alla sarda and sarde a beccaficu, grilled and stuffed with raisins, pine nuts, lemon peel, parsley and breadcrumbs. (The beccafico is a warbler that 'beaks figs' and was—and sometimes, still is— hunted for its sweet taste and roasted whole; the rolled sardines are facetiously said to resemble them). Another Sicilian classic is sarde allinguate ('tongued sardines'): the sardines are butterflied to resemble tongues, marinated in salt and vinegar for two hours, then buried in flour for at least another hour (so the flour sticks) before being deep fried.

In Basilicata and Calabria, they made sarde a scapece as an antipasto, with mint, fennel seeds, cumin, raisins and onions.

Of course nearly every region has at least one other name for them:

Calabria: sardeddha, sardeja

Campania: sarda, sardona, saraca, pesantone, saracca

Friuli: sardela, palassiola

Liguria: sardena, paràsina, putina, gianchetu, gíanchetu vestiu, gianchetto

Sardinia: saldina

Sicily: sarda fimminedda, sarda mpiriali, sadda vera, maiatica

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: juantiagues