Back in 2001 I went to Sicily with my parents. When visiting Taormina, one of my favorite places in the world, we went to eat at a restaurant called Granduca. Along with the beautiful view of Giardini-Naxos down below, Granduca served pizza and some Sicilian dishes. My father got very excited when he saw Sarde a Beccafico on the menu. I asked him what it was and he said it was a Sicilian specialty, stuffed sardines. He was surprised when I told him that I love Sardines. We ordered them and I was not disappointed. They were so good with that sweet and savory stuffing.
When I went back to Italy with my wife Sandy in 2005, and we hit Sicily, I told her we had to go to Granduca for the view and the Sarde a Beccafico. After that trip I promised Sandy I was going to try making them at home. Well, it took me 14 years to actually follow through with that promise, but here they are! It was definitely worth the wait!
Sarde a Beccafico is a traditional Sicilian dish of butterflied sardines stuffed with a sweet and savory mixture of bread crumbs, pine nuts, currants, anchovies, garlic and parsley. Baked in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon, it truly is a taste of Sicily.
- 16–20 fresh sardines, butterflied with spines and heads removed
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cups currants
- 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 3–4 anchovy filets, chopped
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for coating baking dish and drizzling
- salt and pepper to taste
- juice of 1 lemon
- Approximately 30 minutes before preparing stuffing place currants in warm water to soak.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large bowl combine bread crumbs, pignoli, garlic, parsley, anchovies and salt & pepper.
- Drain the currants and add them to the mixture along with the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Stir to mix well.
- Oil a baking dish just large enough to fit the stuffed sardines snugly.
- Spoon about a teaspoon of stuffing on top of each butterflied sardine and roll up. Start rolling from the top of the fish down to the tail. Place the rolled up sardines in the baking dish.
- When all sardines are stuffed and in the baking dish, you should still have some stuffing left over. Sprinkle some of the leftover stuffing on top of the sardines.
- Drizzle extra virgin olive and squeeze lemon juice on top of the sardines and place in the oven.
- Cook for 20-25 minutes until sardines are cooked through and stuffing on top is golden brown.