Sarde a Beccafico Recipe | Sicilian Stuffed Sardines

Sarde a Beccafico recipe is a traditional Sicilian dish. It’s a very good recipe based on sardines stuffed with a filling of bread crumbs, pine nuts, raisins and chopped parsley. Bake with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and orange juice and you get a real taste of Sicily!

Like many traditional Sicilian recipes, Sarde a Beccafico combine sweet and savory flavors.

Sarde a Beccafico is famous throughout Sicily, but there are different versions based on the province to which it belongs. Sardines usually are rolled up or paired like a sandwich, then baked or breaded and fried.

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The following recipe is Sarde a Beccafico according to the Palermo tradition, the most widespread and known recipe.

Sardines a Beccafico is a cheap easy-to-make fish recipe, perfect for a summer dinner or an informal lunch during which we want to bring to the table a fragrant tasty dish.

You can serve Sarde a Beccafico as an appetizer or second course. Better if enjoyed cold.

Try this famous dish with sardines and you will conquer your guests!

Do you like Italian fish recipes? Then you must try these three recipes:

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Sarde a Beccafico Recipe

  • Prep Time: 30 Min
  • Cook Time: 20 Min
  • Yelds: 4

Ingredients

  • 500 g ( 1,1 lb) of sardines 
  • 150 g (5,3 oz) of bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 50 g (1,7 oz) of raisins
  • 50 g ( 1,7 oz) of pine nuts
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 2 oranges
  • 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • fine salt to taste
  • few bay leaves

Directions

First of all clean the sardines. If you bought them already clean, so much the better. Otherwise, follow the next steps: we are going to teach you how to clean sardines to make the best Sarde a Beccafico you have ever eaten!

sarde a beccafico step 1

Step 1) – On a cutting board place one anchovy at a time and with a sharp knife first slit open the belly and remove the entrails. Tthen cut off the head and finally remove the spine. Detach the spine very gently but let the tail intact.

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Step 2) – Rinse under running water then open them being careful not to break the anchovies. Pat with kitchen paper to dry out the water. Set aside

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Step 3) – With a little stale bread, make bread crumbs. For the complete recipe full of information and tips see How to Make Homemade Italian Bread Crumbs.  Then, in a frying pan, toast the bread crumbs with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of fine salt. Stir often or the bread crumbs risk sticking to the pan.

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Step 4) – Transfer the bread crumbs to a large bowl. Add a teaspoon of sugar, the raisins – previously soaked in warm water for about 30 minutes – the pine nuts, the chopped parsley, a pinch of fine salt to taste, the juice of half an orange and some of its grated rind. Mix everything well. The mixture must be compact. If not, add a little more orange juice.

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Step 5) – Now stuff the sardines: put a knob of filling at the base of the sardine, on the side where there was the head and roll it up, leaving the tail in view.

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Step 6) – Finish filling all the sardines. Then take a baking sheet, grease it with about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and place the sardine “rolls” on it very gently. Pour the juice of half an orange and complete with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of fine salt.

sarde a beccafico step 7

Step 7) – Alternate the sardine rolls with bay leaves and very thin slices of orange, inserted between a row of sardines. If you have leftover filling, you can sprinkle it on the surface. If not, you can use just a little bread crumbs.

Bake at 180°C (350 F) for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven: Sarde a Beccafico is ready! Better if served cool.

Storage

Sarde a Beccafico can be perfectly stored in the refrigerator for about two days in an airtight container or covered with cling film.

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What is Beccafico and the Reason for its Name

Sarde a Beccafico is a recipe of humble origins. It was born as an imitation of a dish destined exclusively to the aristocracy.

The name of this old recipe was “Beccafico Ripieni” (Stuffed Beccafico). What is a “Beccafico”? The Beccafico is a little bird very fond of figs (it: fico/fichi). Sicilian nobles of the 1800s appreciated particularly its meat.

They cooked these birds stuffed with their own entrails. They were the hunting booty of the Sicilian nobles. What seemed to be a delicacy reserved only for a few aristocrats, was soon reproduced with poor and more easily accessible ingredients. So sardines replaced birds, while bread crumbs and pine nuts took the place of bird entrails. Thus was born the recipe for sarde a beccafico.

The best sardines are caught in spring, the ideal time for this dish that quickly transforms a “poor” fish into a king’s bite.

The filling keep the fish “plump”, just like the Beccafico, that little bird greedy for figs, which in the summer makes feast of them, becoming fat and round!

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Sarde a Beccafico: Some Variants

There are many variations of the Sarde a Beccafico depending on the area of Sicily. We have shown you the recipe for sarde a beccafico of Palermo, but there are also the Messina and Catania variants.

In Messina, sardines, after being stuffed and fried, are stewed for a few minutes in tomato sauce.

In Catania, on the other hand, the filling also includes Caciocavallo cheese and capers, and the sardines are not rolled up but placed on top of each other two by two, then breaded and fried.

Often they serve Sarde a Beccafico as skewers. So pierce rolled sardines with a stick; alternate them with bay leaves, onion wedges and/or other vegetables. Finally bake them as usual.

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