Salvia fritta (Fried Sage Leaves)

Salvia fritta (Fried Sage Leaves)

In antipasti by Frank28 Comments

You may love sage like I do, for flavoring stews and beans, or sautéed with melted butter over stuffed pasta. But have you ever considered enjoying sage for its own sake? If you’ve ever experienced the peppery, rather bitter taste raw sage, the thought might not appeal to you. But the heat of frying softens the taste, transforming the herb into something surprisingly delicate.

In this recipe, fresh sage leaves—the larger, the better—are scrupulously washed and dried, coated in a simple flour and beer batter and quickly fried to a beautiful golden brown. Generously salted and eaten while they’re still warm, fried sage leaves are a savory delight.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6 as an antipasto or accompaniment to cocktails

  • 24 (or more) large sage leaves
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
  • Cold beer or mineral water, or a combination of the two, q.b., about 250ml (1 cup)
  • A pinch of salt

Optional:

  • Anchovy paste

Directions

Pick the sage leaves off the plant, leaving a bit of the stem attached to the leaf as a “handle”. Wash the sage leaves thoroughly in a bowl of cold, fresh water. Drain them and pat them dry with paper towels.

Add the flour to a mixing bowl. Drizzle in the beer or mineral water, whisking vigorously as you go until you get a smooth batter, pourable but thick enough to coat a spoon well.

Heat a skillet filled at last 2cm (3/4 inch) deep with olive oil. When the oil is quite hot but before it starts to smoke, holding each leaf by its little “handle”, dip it in the batter, let the excess run off and slip it gingerly into the hot oil. (If using the anchovy paste, slather a bit onto one or both sides of each sage leaf before dipping it into the batter.)

Salvia fritta (Fried Sage Leaves)

Fry the sage leaves, keeping them well spaced, until they are golden brown on each side, about one minute or so for each side. Adjust the heat if needed so the oil is bubbling hot but not smoking. Drain the sage leaves on paper towels or a baking rack.

Salt your fried sage leaves generously and serve them while they’re still warm.

Salvia fritta (Fried Sage Leaves)

Notes on Salvia Fritta (Fried Sage Leaves)

This dish is at its best when made with large sage leaves, larger than the ones that you will usually find in stores. Luckily, I had a surfeit of beautiful plump sage from the herb pot on the backyard terrace. Indeed, this is a nice way to use up that sage plant before the frost sets in. And especially if using home grown sage, do make sure to wash the leaves well in plenty of fresh, cold water to remove any dirt or other unwanted substances.

The batter can be thicker or thinner according to your taste; the higher the flour to liquid ratio, the thicker it will be. It needs to be at least thick enough that it coats the sage leaves well. Personally I like the batter only just thick enough to coat the leaves, which produces a light, crispy crust. If you’re in the mood for a more substantial and savory crust, you can use an egg based batter: whisk together an egg and 100g/3-1/2 oz. flour, along with a few drops of water if you need it to get the consistency you want. And if you want a really puffy crust, you can separate the egg, whisk the yolk together with the flour and water, then gingerly fold in the whites, which you will have beaten separately until stiff, with a spatula.

Although optional, I highly recommend the anchovy paste. It provides a nice extra layer of flavor. Just go lighter on the salt, as the paste is, of course, already quite savory.

Salvia fritta (Fried Sage Leaves)

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6 as an antipasto

Salvia fritta (Fried Sage Leaves)

Ingredients

  • 24 (or more) large sage leaves
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
  • Cold beer or mineral water, or a combination of the two, q.b., about 250ml (1 cup)
  • A pinch of salt
  • Optional:
  • Anchovy paste

Directions

  1. Pick the sage leaves off the plant, leaving just a bit of the stem attached to the leaf as a "handle". Wash the sage leaves thoroughly in a bowl of cold, fresh water, drain them and pat them dry with paper towels. 
  2. Add the flour to a mixing bowl. Drizzle in the beer or mineral water, whisking vigorously as you go until you get a smooth batter, pourable but thick enough to coat a spoon well. 
  3. Heat a skillet filled at last 2cm (3/4 inch) deep with olive oil. When the oil is quite hot but before it starts to smoke, holding each leaf by its little "handle", dip it in the batter, let the excess run off and slip it gingerly into the hot oil. (If using the anchovy paste, slather a bit onto one or both sides of each sage leaf before dipping it into the batter.)
  4. Fry the sage leaves, keeping them well spaced, until they are golden brown on each side, about one minute or so for each side. Adjust the heat if needed so the oil is bubbling hot but not smoking. Drain the sage leaves on paper towels or a baking rack.
  5. Salt your fried sage leaves generously and serve them while they're still warm.
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Comments

  1. You know, I’ve eaten fried sage many times but I never did it myself at home…but since this one looks delicious and too tempting I’ll try soon hoping it will resemble at least a little bit to yours 🙂

  2. I love this Frank. I’ve made fried sage leaves as a garnish to different dishes, but never as something to be eaten on its own (although a good glass of wine is required here, I’d say). I have a surfeit of sage, so am going to try serving these next week.

  3. My sage plant in my garden was eaten by a goofer. I planted several new ones and as soon as the leaves are big enough I will make your fried sage, it looks fantastic. I would not leave out the anchovy paste.

    1. Author

      Oh no! I hate when that happens. 😉 Do enjoy the recipe now that your sage has grown back. (I have the same problem but with deer eating my hostas.)

  4. Sage is one of the herbs growing on my balcony and I use it to garnish risotto, spaghetti or make tea to heal sore throat, thanks to my grandmother’s knowledge of healing with herbs. This is completely new twist for me and I will gladly try it before cold days arrive. Grazie mille ! Tornero !

  5. We fill ours with the anchovy paste and love it. But I should try your batter; methinks it superior to mine!

  6. sono perfette con un calice di Prosecco ,voglio provare a fare questa pastella, grazie !Buon weekend Frank !

    1. Author

      D’accordo, Chiara. Un calice di Prosecco sarebbe l’abbinamento perfetto. Buon weekend anche a te!

  7. Very tempting. I never made a pastella with beer (it’s been on my to try list for ages) –
    the anchovy paste makes sense
    very, very tempting
    thanks!
    ps I do think that deep frying when properly done is one of the most beautiful way of cooking

    1. Author

      My first time using a beer batter as well. I liked it a lot. Likely to be become a standby …

  8. I love sage. Unfortunately it’s a bit late for us here as my sage has already “gone over”. The last time we went to Tuscany, we were served ravioli in sage butter. I can’t remember the ravioli filling, but I certainly remember the delicious sage butter!

    1. Author

      Sorry to hear that, Susie! Of course, though not ideal, store bought sage will also work. And sage butter, yes, it’s wonderful on ravioli!

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