I tried boning sardines according to on-line instructions and made a mess of them. Recipes, say this one by Mario Batali, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/pasta-with-sardines-pasta-con-le-sarde-recipe.html , say remove the backbone. I'd like to know 1. does anyone know where to find instructions that work for performing this procedure ? 2. Has anyone done it ? 3. when you remove the backbone are all the little bones supposed to come out with it ? If not, what becomes of them ?

Also, I live in NYC and would be please to find a seafood class that dealt with getting the guys off the boat and into the pan, but the usual places don't seem to offer a lot.

  • Could you elaborate a bit on what methods you have tried, and more about the results you got? "Made a mess" isn't very descriptive.
    – GdD
    Apr 14, 2014 at 16:00
  • 1
    There shouldn't be much to it. The fishmonger cleaned them & cut of the fins. The instructions said something along the lines of 'make 2 incision at the neck and pull the backbone out'. So I did that, and an awful lot of the fish ( on a percent basis, they were sardines) where coming with it including the small bones and the flesh. I did my best to get the meat off the bones, but when I was done it no longer looks like a fish.
    – mike
    Apr 14, 2014 at 18:23

2 Answers 2


If you bought fresh sardines before to clean them and remove the backbone you should keep them in a bowl of water to get soft for an hour at least.

After you make the cut on the neck or simply remove the head with your hands. Now there is the hole created by the head removal. Enter your finger and open the sardina. If you prefer to use a little knife cut from inside to outside the thinner part and open (thinner par is without the backbone). Remove the tail if you are using them for the pasta, otherwise don't cut it (vertical nor horizontal) if you want to fill them (for "sarde a beccafico"). Now your sardina should be open and still with backbone and little spine. Since it became soft in the water should be easy to remove the backbone and little spines all together picking the backbone from the head part and separating it from the rest of the fish gently.

If you use stored sardines clean under fresh water gently. Remove Silver skin outside part and interior part. Remove the white long chain of backbone and eventually spines.

If you have any doubt about other passages or ingredients let me know.

Buon appetito.


That recipe looks good, but another option: Any decent Italian specialty shop or deli in NYC will have imported/canned sardine/fennel (and other ingredients) specifically for pasta con sardi. It is usually of decent quality...and much easier than boning your own sardines.

enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.