"That’s a fine pasticcio you got me into,’ one Roman might say to another. It is the name given to dishes made up of jumbled up ingredients, in this case it is sardines, herbs and breadcrumbs, and it is made by our friend Anna Davies, a Roman resident since her youth when she moved to Rome as a dancer. Anna has championed her versions of Roman classics for her family that can be made quickly and suit all tastes. I love this combination of sweet onions, salty fish and crunchy breadcrumbs, and it’s become one of our family favourites back home"  Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi,

Serves 6 (as a starter or 4 as a main)


500 g (1 lb 2 oz) fresh sardines

1 white onion, finely sliced into semi-circles

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive

oil, plus extra for drizzling

100 g (31/2 oz) slightly stale white crusty bread

200 ml (7 fl oz) milk

3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

juice of 1 lemon


Wash, scale and gut the fish, removing their heads, fins and spines. Open them out like a butterfly and pat dry. Set aside. Heat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 6). Fry the onions over a low heat in the oil with the seasoning for around 5 minutes until just soft but not coloured. Remove

from the heat when they are done.

In a large bowl, soak the bread in the milk for a couple of minutes, then squeeze out the milk gently breaking up the bread into small pieces; set aside. In an ovenproof dish measuring around 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 in) layer a third of the onions onto the base. Scatter over a third of the bread, parsley and garlic. Put a third of the sardines on top and season well. Squeeze over a little of the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Repeat for 2 more layers finishing with the breadcrumbs.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the top is crusty and golden brown. Serve warm with a green salad .

Rome by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi

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