Sarde Beccafico – Sicilian Stuffed Sardines

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.

Sarde a Beccafico
Sarde a Beccafico - Stuffed Sardines
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 25 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 25 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 5 minutes
Sarde a Beccafico
Sarde a Beccafico - Stuffed Sardines
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 25 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 25 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 5 minutes
Servings: people
  1. Carefully clean the sardines by removing the entrails, the head and the central bone, open them in half way to the tail. Wash and dry them and open them on a plane.
  2. Soak in two bowls with a little water raisins and capers. Peel the shallots, garlic and pitted olives.
  3. After 10 minutes you can drain the capers and raisins.
  4. At this point, use the chopped capers and raisins adding parsley, pine nuts and 4 sardines.
  5. Crumble the bread and brown it in two tablespoons of oil, then add ¾ of the whole quantity.
  6. Spread the mixture evenly on the sardines, then roll them leaving off the tail, stops the rolls with toothpicks.
  7. Arrange the rolls in a baking dish with the tail at the top and alternate them with bay leaves.
  8. Season with salt and sprinkle with the crumb remained. Drizzle with the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil.
  9. Bake at 180 ° C for 15 minutes, serve warm.
Recipe Notes


  • Oven
  • Pan
  • Baking dish
  • Toothpicks

Serve warm

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