by Giulia


(4 people)


  • 100 g of dried cannellini beans
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 30 g of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 8 sardines, about 60 g each
  • Coarse salt


  1. Soak the beans for at least twelve hours. Rinse them and put them in a pot with a clove of garlic and plenty of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about two hours, or until soft.
  2. Drain the beans and purée them with an immersion blender, pouring the lemon juice and the olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt and pepper and keep the mayonnaise in the fridge until needed.
  3. Clean the sardines by scraping off the scales and removing the guts, then rinse under running water. Sprinkle coarse sea salt on a cast iron griddle pan and when hot lay the sardines onto it. Grill the sardines for about two minutes per side, until golden brown. Serve hot with the cannellini bean mayonnaise.

For many years I thought that buying fish was way too expensive and cooking it was too complicated for a novice girl in the kitchen. Then I realized that our gastronomic traditions, especially those of the coast, abound with recipes based on poor fish, what we know as pesce azzurro, the local fish of our sea: mackerel, sardines, anchovies... Good, easy to cook and sustainable.
The fastest way to prepare this fish is to grill it with a handful of coarse sea salt, which will ease the cooking.

To soften the intense taste of grilled pesce azzurro, you can often serve it with a matching sauce. In this case, instead of the classic mayonnaise, I chose a cannellini bean sauce which looks and taste like mayonnaise.
The beans give body and creaminess to the sauce, while the lemon juice gives the sour note that teams up perfectly with the grilled sardines. It is so good you'll want spread it directly on toast.

Born and bred in Tuscany, I am a food writer and a food photographer. I live in the countryside between Siena and Florence, where I also teach Tuscan cooking classes for locals and tourists. In 2017 my fifth cookery book will be published. As for every Tuscan home cook, legumes, especially beans and chickpeas, are part of my daily life and my culinary traditions.

Find me on my blog