Stuffed Sardines Beccafico

Catania Style


(“Sarde Beccafico alla Catanese”)

("Sardi a Beccaficu 'a Catanisi")



An everlasting dispute between Catania and Palermo on the originality of the sarde a beccafico has been going on for centuries!  

The two cities are claiming the creation of this delicacy and still arguing which one tastes better the beccafico made in Palermo or in Catania.  

In fact, there is no resemblance between the two dishes in the taste, or in the look.
Palermo the sarde a beccafico are stuffed with breadcrumbs sautéed with onions and flavored with the juice of lemon. Then sugar, fillets of anchovies, pinoli, currants and parsley are added, to stuff the sardines which are folded and rolled tail up, sandwiched between a slice of onion and a bay leaf and finally baked.
Catania the stuffing is made adding cheese, garlic, capers, parsley, made in a sandwich using two sardines, fried not baked.
The sarde a beccafico
Palermo or Catania style are delicious: you can be the judge to choose the one you prefer… or to keep the arguing going!



Serves 6




  • 2 lb. sardines
  • Vinegar to cover the sardines, about 1 cup
  • 1½ cups of breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic finely minced
  • ½ cup of grated pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped capers
  • Chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 large eggs
  • Flour to light coat the beccafico before frying
  • 1 cup of oil for frying





The Sardines

Cut off the head of the sardines.
In a large basin with cold water, immerse the sardines and scale them under water (to avoid a big mess) using a teaspoon or your nails. Discard interiors. Inserting a finger under the bone to detach from fillet and discard it. Open the sardines leaving the two sides connected and the tail intact. Wash and drain.
Place the sardines into a bowl and cover with vinegar. Marinate for a few hours.


The Stuffing

In a skillet over a medium heat sauté the breadcrumbs with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, cook until toasted, set on the side in a large bowl.
When breadcrumbs cool off, rub in the garlic, add the cheese, chopped capers, parsley, salt and pepper to taste, 1 egg lightly beaten and mix well.


The Beccafico

Gently tap dry the sardine’s fillets with paper towels. 
Place 1 tablespoon of breadcrumb on top of a fillet, spread it evenly and cover with another sardine’s fillet. Prepare all the sardine’s sandwiches and set on the side until ready to fry.


The Frying

Place 2 eggs in a wide bowl and beat until smooth.
Place flour into a large container.
One at a time, place the sandwiched sardines into the egg mixture coating on all sides.
Remove from egg mixture and place it in the container with the flour, cover the beccafico   and shake off excessive flour.
Set the sarde a beccafico into a pan or dish. Once all have been battered and floured, prepare for frying.
Heat ½ cup of oil in a 10 inch skillet and before it starts to smoke, lower the floured beccafico in the hot oil a few at a time, being very cautious not to burn yourself.
Turn carefully the frying stuffed sardines, which are cooked when they are light golden brown on all sides. 
As you fry, add more oil if needed.
Drain the fried beccafico on a rack or on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. 
Serve hot or at room temperature. Garnish with sliced lemon