Beccafico Sardines –in Sicilian “sardi a beccaficu”- are a preparation of sardines traditional to Sicilian cuisine, especially in Palermo.
It is a traditional Sicilian dish and as such has been officially recognized and included in the list of traditional Italian food products (Prodotti Agroalimentari Tradizionali- P.A.T) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
The name of the dish comes from the “beccafichi”, birds of the family of warblers. In the past, the Sicilian nobles ate them, after catching them, and stuffed with their own organs and offal. The dish was tasty but, as a luxury item, inaccessible to the people. The common people of Palermo then fell back on the raw materials they could afford or sardines. To mimic the filling of innards it was decided to use the breadcrumbs, pine nuts and little else.
1 kilo of sardines
Extra-virgin olive oil
10 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
100 grams of raisins
100 grams of pine nuts
1 tablespoon of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprig of parsley
Lemon juice (or even better, orange juice)
Clean the sardines, remove the scales and cut off the heads. Rinse, dry and butterfly the fish.
Prepare the “muddica atturrata” (toasted breadcrumbs): Put the breadcrumbs in a frying pan, brown it (being careful not to burn it). When it is well colored remove the pan from the heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and mix well.
In a bowl combine the “muddica atturrata” with raisins, pine nuts, sugar, salt and pepper and finely chopped parsley. Mix these ingredients well, then put a little of the newly made filling on every sardine. Roll the stuffed sardines, so you get the rolls. Place them in an oiled baking pan lined up, side by side, with bay leaves between. At this point, drizzle a little olive oil and a little lemon or orange juice. Finally sprinkle with bread crumbs and place in hot oven for about twenty minutes.
In Catania, the sardines are prepared in the following manner :
Put the marinated and butterflied sardines in two cups of vinegar for about two hours. After this, pour the filling and some cubes of fresh cacciocavalo (an Italian cheese similar to a strong parmassean) on a sardines, then cover with another sardine. Do this until all the ingredients are used up. Pass these pairs of sardines in beaten eggs and then in a mixture of flour and breadcrumbs, then fry in hot oil.