(sarde a beccafico)
Preparation time : 40 minutes + 20 minutes cooking time
Ingredients for 4 servings
- whole sardines 171/2 oz (500 g)
- about 12 large
- bread crumbs 1/2 cup (100 g)
- salt-packed anchovies, deboned, desalted and chopped 2
- pine nuts 2/3 oz (20 g)
- raisins 2/3 oz (20 g)
- parsley, chopped 1 tbsp
- extra-virgin olive oil 4 tbsp (50 ml) + more for drizzling
- bay leaves to taste (twelve)
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet and add the bread crumbs. Sauté until they start to brown, then let them cool. Add the parsley, pine nuts, raisins and anchovies, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Clean the sardines then cut them lengthwise and open them up like a book, skin-side down. Put a little of the mixture on each sardine so that the skin remains on the outside, and then roll them up starting from the head so that the tail is left outside. Secure the rolls with a toothpick.
- Heat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Oil a baking pan. Arrange the twelve bay leaves evenly on the pan, and place a sardine roll atop each one. Drizzle with the rest of the oil and bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops of the sardines are golden.
This is a tasty main dish of Sicilian origin; sarde a beccafico take their name from “beccafichi,” small birds that are very greedy for figs. They are and commonly found in the fields of Sicily, where they eat this sweet fruit in the summer and grow quite plump. Some say this dish is so called because the stuffed sardines resemble beccafichi. Others claim it is the poor man’s version of a delicacy of noble origin: the prized beccafichi stuffed with sardines. The poor man’s version merely used the main ingredient for the stuffing, which was decidedly more economical than the beccafichi themselves, and stuffed it with bread crumbs and orange or lemon juice. Subsequently the stuffing was enriched with anchovy fillets, pine nuts and raisins, and flavored with parsley and bay leaves. Among the many variations of sarde a beccafico that are found in Sicily, Catania’s version replaces the bread crumbs with grated Pecorino and the flavors the stuffing with garlic and chopped onion.