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Municipality of Ravenna
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The Saraghina
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Chef Mattia Borroni‘s recipe
Alexander Restaurant

Ingredients for the preparation of fish

  • saraghine
  • a handful of ground bread
  • garlic and parsley
  • oil

Ingredients for the side dish

  • portulaca/purslane
  • carrots
  • celery
  • onions
  • vinegar
  • white wine
  • spring onion
  • basil
  • lemon peel
  • black garlic cream
  • parsley oil


Saraghina is a blue fish very rich in iodine and Omega 3, with very few calories (only 93 per 100 grams) and very little cholesterol.

Present in large quantities in our sea, saraghina (also called sprat) is considered the Romagna fish DOC with which you can prepare a tasty second course, but also a condiment for fresh pasta or the filling of piadina.

Grilled Saraghina is the recipe chosen by the young chef Mattia Borroni, originating from Milan and Marche.

He was barely an adult when he came to Ravenna to visit a friend and immediately fell in love with the city and its cuisine.

Self-taught and with natural talent, already recognized by Identità Golose and a hat in the L’Espresso Guide, he gained experience in several important restaurants in Milan, then with chef Riccardo Agostini at Piastrino di Pennabilli.

Today as chef at the elegant “Alexander” restaurant and one of the protagonists of the new Ravenna cuisine, he is hailed as the young flagbearer of the newly born “RavennaFood”.

To prepare his recipe, the chef cleans the saraghine in water, removing the heads with his hands, rinsing and emptying the entrails.

On the side, the chef has already prepared the breading, prepared with breadcrumbs flavoured with parsley, a hint of garlic and a flourish of oil, in which he carefully turns the saraghine.

At this point, according to tradition, they should be laid on the grill, but chef Mattia prefers to cook them in a pan lined with lightly oiled baking paper, which keeps the small fish “softer” during cooking.

So, with the creativity that is Borroni’s mark of distinction, it is how the dish is presented that makes the difference: at the centre, the fish is seasoned with parsley oil, enriched by the aromas, flavours and colours of black garlic paste, carrots, celery, onions in carpione (prepared with vinegar and white wine), greens from the portulaca garden and a final sprinkle of grated lemon peel.


The great wealth of poor food

You can see a real chef from the ingredients he chooses to exalt with the creativity of his recipe.

And if the chef works in a land where cooking already has a strong tradition, the difference will be made by the dish in which a handful of humble ingredients, wisely combined, give the richest of flavours.

This is the case of chef Mattia Borroni who, in defiance of the refined setting of the “Alexander” restaurant (formerly a Franciscan convent, then a cinema and now the Borgo San Rocco lounge), has chosen as the main ingredient of his dish, saraghina (also known as “papalina”), a variety of small blue fish, together with mackerel, sardines, anchovies and tiny fish (acquadelle), that are common to the waters of the Ravenna coast, on the tables of taverns and restaurants, as well as in kiosks in the street, in combination with piadina.

A poor food already at the time of the Etruscans, the piadina has become over time “The bread, indeed the national food of the Romagnoli”, as Giovanni Pascoli wrote.

When the piadina is not flavoured with saraghina, it will almost certainly be filled with squacquerone, one of the best known fresh cheeses that goes perfectly with both the savoury Parma ham and the sweetest caramelised figs.

Brother of squacquerone, another cheese that Romagna can boast of, although less commonly used due to its spicy and strong flavour, is Formaggio di Fossa, which was once, however, a privileged filling of cappelletti in broth.

Cheese, bread and wild herbs are the perfect triptych of poor ingredients.

It is no coincidence that Chef Borroni seasoned his recipe of grilled saraghina with portulaca, a weed rich in omega three, and enriched it with a teaspoon of black garlic pasta (garlic produced in the nearby Ferrara province of Voghiera but fermented by a start up in Ravenna).

Like him, chef Gaetano Latino promotes the use of humble ingredients and, in the cuttlefish sauce with strozzapreti, he adds fried stridoli (or strigoli), shoots with broad succulent leaves, excellent in meat sauce, stew and with sausages and meatballs.

Herbs that lend themselves to creating salads, to stuffing omelettes, meat sauce or in the filling of fresh pasta and piadina, are scarpigno (in dialect scarpègn) and tarassaco (sufiòn or pesalèt), with diuretic and purifying properties.

Since 1997, the scalogno shallot, eaten raw in vinegar or, alternatively, as a condiment for pasta, has been awarded the European PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) recognition.

The “king” of the Ravenna pinewoods, historically harvested by the so-called “pinaroli”, who were looking for wild products of the pinewood to sustain themselves, is the wild asparagus or asparagine (in dialect sparaz, sparz, sparazena), a green with a rustic but gentle taste, today cultivated in greenhouses and fields.

Among the fruits of the countryside, there are also the strawberry tree, carnelian (cornel berry), jujube (red date), loquat, sorb, hawberry and the numerous varieties of pears and apples, such as the volpina pear and quince, as well as the Albana white grape, a “white berry” vine (from “albus”), whose origin dates back to Roman times, and which since 1987 has been designated DOGC. The passito di Albana, a raisin wine, loves the company of another simple and straightforward traditional product, the Romagna doughnut.

Among the hundred Italian products to be protected, the Slow Food association has at last chosen “Romagna breed” pork, from swine which live in a semi-wild state and from whose meat, best eaten fresh, cacciatorini, a salami flavoured with Romagna shallots, and ham are made.

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Ultima modifica: 8 January 2021

Eat & Drink