Ingredients for 4 people:16 large, very fresh sardines (or anchovies)100 g breadcrumbs (plus one heaped tablespoon)8 anchovies filets in oil3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil1 heaped tablespoon pine nuts1 heaped tablespoon raisins juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange bay leaf leaves (fresh or dried) sugar, salt and pepper
Scale the sardines, remove the head and open the fish like a butterfly, eliminating the innards and backbone but leaving the tail. Wash them a pat them dry with kitchen paper. Soak the raisins in warm water for 5 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the breadcrumbs until golden. Transfer them to a bowl and mix in the pine nuts, the strained and dried raisins, and the chopped anchovy filets. Line the sardines up on your work surface, skin downwards, season with a little salt and pepper and place some of the mixture you have prepared on each of them. Close each fish using, if you wish, a toothpick. Put them in a rectangular oven dish, well-greased with oil, arranging them beside each other with a bay leaf between one and the next. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar, a little salt, pepper and a tablespoon of breadcrumbs. Pour the lemon and orange juice over them and finish off with a drizzle of olive oil. Put the oven dish in a preheated oven, at 160 °C, and leave to cook for about a quarter of an hour. Serve the sardines warm or cold. They are also excellent the following day.
These sardines were given their name in Messina, the luminous Sicilian city which lends its name to the strait that separates Sicily from the mainland of Italy. “Beccafico” is the nickname given, in the region, to a bird that feeds on figs and, for this reason, has a particularly fatty and delicious meat... like the “stuffed” sardines in this recipe.