- 1 ¾ lb sardines
- 3 ½ oz crustless white bread
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 salted anchovies
- 1 sprig parsley, chopped
- 1 ¾ oz capers
- 1 ½ oz sultanas
- 1 ½ oz pine nuts
- 3 bay leaves
- ½ lemon zest
- 5 oz almonds, roasted and chopped
- 1 ¾ oz black olives, pitted, thinly sliced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2 oz grated Pecorino cheese
40 minutes preparation + 15 minutes cooking
Place the raisins in a bowl of warm water to soften them.
In the meantime, prepare the sardines: remove the scales and butterfly; remove the innards, skin and heads, then wash in cold water. Dry well and cover with chopped bay leaves.
Heat the oil in a pan, then add breadcrumbs. Stir to toast for a couple of minutes.
Then transfer the breadcrumbs to a bowl and let cool slightly. Drain the raisins and add to the breadcrumbs. Also add the pine nuts, parsley, chopped onion and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Mix together well and spread a little bit of this mixture on the inside of every sardine. Then close the sardines and press down slightly with your fingers.
Line a baking dish with parchment paper and arrange the stuffed sardines on top. Cover with a tbsp of breadcrumbs and drizzle with a little olive oil.
Bake in a 170° C oven for 20 minutes. Then remove from the oven and drizzle with a little lemon juice. Serve hot.
Stuffed sardines, sarde a beccafico in Italian, is one most traditional and well-loved dishes in Sicily. Sardines are small, inexpensive and are commonly found off the coast of Sicily. For a long time, sardines were one of the main ingredients in the diet of the lower class, especially fishermen, who ate them quite often.
It should come as no surprise that many Sicilian recipes are based on sardines. In many cases, sardines were used as a substitute for more expensive fish, allowing the poor to recreate the dishes the noblemen were accustomed to eating. This recipe for stuffed sardines is actual the poor man’s version of a much more noble meat dish.
Beccafico is the name of a small bird, a warbler, with very flavorful meat that consumes figs during the summertime, becoming quite plump. Noble Sicilians would catch and eat these birds, stuffed with their innards.
This dish was obviously out of range of the poorer population who tried to recreate with dish with other ingredients. The small birds were substituted with less-expensive sardines and were stuffed with breadcrumbs rather than innards. Sicilian stuffed sardines became very popular in Sicily and are now considered an important part of the island’s cuisine.
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