Sarde a Beccafico is a very ancient dish in the Sicilian gastronomic tradition, especially in Palermo.
This recipe is originally Sicilian that has been officially recognized and included in the list of traditional Italian food products (P.A.T) of the Ministry of Agricultural, Food, and Forestry Policies.
I am very happy today because I am sharing a recipe that requires the freshest of ingredients, and trying to find them here in Philadelphia is very difficult since sardines are very common in the Mediterranean Sea and barely in the ocean.
Luckily, this morning my husband went to the fish-market and miraculously brought me the sardines. And they were actually, decently, fresh, I couldn’t believe it!
The recipe’s origins date back to the Kingdom Bourbons in Sicily, where the Sicilian aristocracy in the kitchen was very lavish, French chefs (employed by the Sicilian aristocracy) cooked their best dishes of that time, including the “beccafico” which, literally, means “beak of fig” because the recipe first included a bird that loved eating figs so much that they named them after that peculiar trait.
The chefs prepared it stuffed with their entrails and the innards of the bird.
For the poorer people back then, obviously, these birds were a luxurious, but they could not afford it. So, the commoner women of Palermo, reworked the recipe using the most economic animal they can find, the sardine, and filled them with breadcrumbs.
Sarde a Beccafico – Original Sicilian Recipe
- 1 kg sardines 2.2 pounds
- 2.5 tbsp raisins
- 2.5 tbsp pine nuts
- 10 tbsp bread-crumbs
- a pinch of sugar
- extra virgin olive oil
- bay leaves
- minced garlic
- chopped parsley
- salt and pepper.
- ½ cup orange juice
- Scale, gut, and take out the central bone and head of the sardines.
- Wash and dry (leave the tail), and split them open horizontally long ways from the neck, down and open it like you would a book.
- Put the breadcrumbs in a non-stick pan with oil and minced garlic.
- Let it brown over low heat; be careful not to burn it.
- Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl that you have prepared, add the raisins, pine nuts, sugar, salt, pepper, and finely chopped parsley. Mix well.
- Put some of the stuffing in each sardine and roll it up so you obtain a roll and place it in an oiled pan, with a bay leaf and an orange slice.
- Continue in this way, alternating the sardine roll and a bay leaf, in a line.
- Add a little olive oil to the sardine rolls and the orange juice, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and place in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes at 180°C (356°F).