Sarde Beccafico (or Stuffed Sardines) is a traditional Sicilian food, especially from Palermo, Messina and Catania.
If you are planning to visit Sicily, consider that the typical food variety of this region is enormous.
It’s tipicality is such that it was officially recognized and included in the Traditional Italian Food Products list, by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
The recipe consist of preparing the sardines to be rolled around a mixture of bread crumbs, chopped garlic, chopped parsley, raisins, pine nuts, and then baking them with salt, pepper and olive oil.
This specialty belongs to the popular tradition and is often found on sale in “friggitorie” (fryers) of Palermo markets – such as Palermo’s “Vucciria” – but also in Messina, Trapani, Agrigento, Catania and in the various towns of these provinces.
While locals consider Sarde Beccafico as a main dish, they also serve it as a rich appetizer, especially in ceremonial lunches.
The Sarde Beccafico basic preparation consists of four distinct phases:
1) preparing sardines by removing their entrails, the bone and the head;
2) preparing the stuffing.
3) rolling them up on stuffing and stop with a toothpick.
4) baking them.
There are four variants in Sarde Beccafico preparation, that differ mainly for cooking modes, baked or breaded and fried.
Sarde Beccafico in Palermo
Sardines are scaled, eviscerated, deprived of central bone and head, washed and dried.
As for the stuffing. You make gild the breadcrumbs and add the garlic and chopped parsley, pine nuts, raisins and a tablespoon of sugar, then salt, pepper and half a glass of olive oil.
When the mixture is blended, distribute a small amount on each well expanse Sardines.
Finally, roll them around.
Sardines thus prepared are anointed with an oil-based sauce, lemon juice, salt, pepper and alternating with bay leaves.
Then they are cooked for 15 minutes and serve cold.
Sarde Beccafico in Messina
Unlike the first variation, in the Messina version the stuffing includes bread crumbs and even capers, while the cooking is done by frying.
The final dish presents a golden breading.
Sarde Beccafico in Catania
Unlike the Palermo style, you can add a caciocavallo cheese filling; moreover – rather than roll them on the stuffing – sardines are arranged one above the other, two by two, breaded and fried.
Skewers of Sarde Beccafico
A fourth version provides that stuffed sardines (also with caciocavallo cheese) are rolled and impaled on a skewer, alternating a Sardinian and a bay leaf and a slice of onion.
The skewers thus obtained are cooked in the oven.
In the recipe below, we consider the Palermo style version.