Sardenaira, the Ligurian tomato focaccia tasting Mediterranean.

Jump to recipe
Sardenaria: some history, my recipe and where to eat it.
sardenaira, the Ligurian pizza

Sardenaira is a historic dish, a gastronomical monument of the extreme western Italian Riviera, even beyond the France border. They say it dates back to the Middle Ages.

As many other ancient preparation it is called by different names.

It is called Sardenaira in Sanremo, probably because originally people used to put salted sardines on top (replaced with salted anchovies since the postwar period).

In Imperia it is known as Pissalandrea (Pizza all’Andrea), as a tribute to the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria born in Oneglia who apparently was a great admirer of the dish (if not even its inventor…as always happens with mythology …).

It is called Pisciarà in Bordighera, Pisciadela in Ventimiglia and Pisciarada in the upper Nervia valley. While in Apricale it becomes Macchetusa because it takes its name directly from the machetto, a sauce made in the mortar with salted anchovies.

Pissalandrea, tomato focaccia from the Italian Riviera

Different names for a single product. I would call it pizza if it wasn’t forbidden in Sanremo. They call it Torta (litterally “cake”), to differentiate  from the Napolitan pizza (created BTW many centuries after). Perhaps “focaccia” can also work well, a soft focaccia topped with tomato sauce.

Whatever its name, it is clear what it is: a soft base of leavened bread dough (be careful, two risings, the last one directly in the pan), with oil in the dough (like a focaccia) and then generously seasoned with tomato sauce, salted anchovies, capers, Taggiasca olives, jacketed garlic and oregano. In short, a focaccia that tastes Mediterranean!

What about onions? Controversial issue.

The original version – probably similar to today’s Pissaladiere in Nice – was white and indeed based on onions, salted anchovies, capers, garlic, olives and oregano. No tomatoes, because these latter were introduced into Ligurian cuisine only in the early 1700s after the importation from America and a long period of transition as an ornamental plant.

On the other hand, the traditional recipe of Sanremo, which in 2012 obtained the DE.CO. (Municipal Denomination of origin, a certificate of local authenticity of a dish) does not include onions in its strict Regulation.

Let’s say then that onions in the Sardenaira are a homemade variant, however very frequent.

Sardenaira, the Italian Riviera traditional pizza without cheese
Sardenaira, the traditional Italian Riviera pizza with anchovies and garlic

Sardenaira and its many sisters have always been cooked in large rectangular pans and then cut into squares and served hot or cold, also as street food.

In this regard, I read that “the tradition of large rectangular pizzas cooked in the pan seems to have been exported to the United States by the Ligurians, rather than by the Neapolitans” (Alessandro Marzo Magno, Il genio del gusto, Garzanti, Milan 2014-2015, p.13 ). Very interesting don’t you think?

My recipe of Sardenaira

Here below my recipe of Sardenaira. It is topped with a tomato and onion sauce, ’cause I love the contrast between the sweetness of the onion and the saltinity of the anchovies and capers.

I baked it at the end of the summer and I prepared the sauce with the riper tomatoes and with a Belendina onion from Andora, a Slow Food Presidia of the Italian Riviera. It was excellent.

Sardenaira in the making
Sardenaira, the traditional Italian Riviera pizza
Where to eat the best Sardenaira

In Sanremo:

In Imperia:

join italian riviera cooking course


Get my monthly newsletter with fresh recipes, my latest food adventures, upcoming events, and lots more from the sunny Italian Riviera!

Ciao! I’m Enrica

a home cook, food researcher and experience curator born and bred in Liguria.
I study, tell, cook, share and teach Ligurian cuisine and the culture surrounding it.
Here we celebrate Liguria’s gastronomic diversity and richness through its recipes, producers, traditions and shops.

Discover my cookbook

Book an on-line
cooking class

Join my cooking
course on-demand

You may also like

Brandacujun – Potatoes, cod and evo oil magic

Brandacujun – Potatoes, cod and evo oil magic

Brandacujun is a West Liguria dish that combines land and sea, based on potatoes and stockfish, where extra virgin olive oil is a key ingredient. In Italian cuisine, extra virgin olive oil is generally used as a condiment or as a base for fried foods. However, there...

read more
Cheese focaccette from Megli

Cheese focaccette from Megli

Have you ever heard of Megli’s focaccette? Nothing to do with focaccia, the flat Ligurian bread! They are fritters, made of thin layers of  dough, stuffed with creamy melting  cheese (crescenza). For us Genoese, cheese fritters  represent the delicious...

read more

Join me on my food journeys