Stuffed Sardines Lemon Sauce

Beccafico Palermo Style

(“Sarde a Beccafico” - "Sardi a Beccaficu")


 Sarde Beccafico


The largest cities in Sicily are Catania and Palermo. Both cities are impressive, rich with history, art and famous persons that have made them outstanding. But for unknown reasons that go back to pristine times, there is a rivalry between the citizens of the two cities which gives birth to arguing about any subject from sport to business, even contending a dispute that goes back to the III century, if the birth place of Saint Agatha, the patron Saint of Catania, was Palermo or Catania.
They will debate politics taking opposite views and never reaching a compromise, dispute which of the two cities is cleaner and there is no argument that is not worth debate, it does not matter how irrelevant it is.
When talking over about the origin of Sicilian famous dishes likearancine, the rice balls,caponatina, the eggplant salad,pasta con sarde o melenzane, the pasta with fennels and sardines or with eggplant,bruciulone, the stuffed meat loaf to name a few, the heated discussions never end unless one of the contestants gets some wine and conclude the debate with a snack and a glass of wine, usually bragging about his homemade wine as the best in the world.
One of the courses whose origin they would never agree upon is thesarde a beccafico,the stuffed sardines: a delicacy made in Catania and in Palermo of which the only similarity is in the same name that they share and the use of the sardines and other ingredients. In Palermo, the beccafico are baked, in Catania the beccafico are fried. 


Serves 4 to 6



  • 2 lb. sardines 
  • 1 medium size onion, diced 
  • 1 ½ cups of toasted breadcrumbs 
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped. If salted wash salt out 
  • Juice of 2 lemons 
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar 
  • ½ cup of olive oil 
  • 2 oz. Pinoli nuts 
  • 2 oz. currants or raisins 
  • Chopped parsley 
  • Salt and pepper  
  • Bay leaves 
  • Large slices of onions, 1 for every sardine 
  • Slices of lemon for garnish 
  • An oiled pan 12 inches X 9 inches 




The Sardines
Cut off the head of the sardines.
In a large basin with cold water, immerse sardines, and scale them under water (to avoid a big mess) using a teaspoon or your nails. Discard interior and by inserting the finger under the bone, eliminate it. Open the sardines leaving the two sides connected and the tail intact. Wash and drain.


                             The Ingredients



The Stuffing
Sauté the onions in ½ cup of olive oil and after 7 minutes add breadcrumbs. Cook for 2 minutes and set on the side in a large bowl.
When breadcrumbs cool off, add juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of sugar, fillets of anchovies, pinoli, currants and parsley.
Add salt and pepper to taste.


Rolling the Sardines


The Beccafico
Gently tap dry the sardines fillets with paper towels, place 1 tablespoon of breadcrumb on the large side of the fillet(opposite the tail), fold and roll up and arrange stuffed sardines in the oiled pan, tail up.
Alternate a slice of onion and a bay leaf between each Sarda a Beccafico.
Wisk remaining olive oil with lemon and sugar, and sprinkle over sardines, shake leftover breadcrumb mixture on top.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
Serve hot or at room temperature. Garnish with sliced lemon.