Perhaps one of the most popular dishes of Sicilian cuisine, so much so that you can also find them in the street food stalls in some areas of the island: they are sardines a beccafico . One recipe, many variations and a story behind it: as often happens with those dishes that have their roots in tradition.
This time it is not about the meeting of different cultures, as in the case of pasta with sardines , but of… social classes.
We at Curtigghiu Ristorante – Pizzeria enjoyed discovering it and we want to tell you about it.
Let’s start from the beginning. Perhaps not everyone knows that the beccafico is an animal that has little to do with the marine habitat, being in fact a bird .
Super Quark moment. The woodcock is a small bird of the Sylviidae family , widespread in most of Europe. Greedy of figs so much to earn its name on the basis of this characteristic, its presence is most intense between May and September in parks, gardens, open woodlands. It is a habitual animal: it migrates in winter to the times of tropical Africa, it often chooses the same territory for the summer from year to year. Although, until recently, many of them did not return from their holidays in Sicily.
The beccafico was in fact a delicious dish for the tables of the Sicilian nobles : hunted and served as a luxury dish stuffed with their own entrails and entrails.
Delicious for Sicilian nobles, unattainable for popular tables: sardines replace game
We would dare to define the stuffed beccafico as a gourmet dish, unapproachable by the humblest layers of the population, who nevertheless had an eye on the recipe. A “low cost” version is thus invented, taking a cue from a more easily available good: sardines and a DIY filling, creating the recipe “in the manner of”.
The small birds replaced by the small fish, the filling recreated from bread crumbs , pine nuts and little else: a perfect and economical formula that has allowed this dish to travel in time and be considered a delicacy even today (and probably more than that in game base …).
To prepare sardines a beccafico (a bit like eating an arancino you have to decide whether it is male or female), you need to take sides and decide which provincial variant to prepare: Palermo , Messina , or Catania ?
Let’s start with the preliminary phase, which can be defined as “super partes”: the cleaning of the sardines , to be done by the strong stomach in the family. In fact, sardines must be scaled, gutted, deprived of the bone and head, washed and dried.
Now that the tricky part is gone, you have to choose.
The Palermo version, which seems to be the most widespread, involves the following procedure. After having browned the breadcrumbs, add chopped garlic and parsley, pine nuts, raisins, sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil. A small amount of this compound is placed on well-spread sardines. The sardines are then rolled up and locked into a roll with a toothpick, sprinkled with a sauce of lemon, oil, salt and pepper and bake for 15 minutes. Consume preferably cold.
In Messina capers are added to the filling and, instead of being baked, they are eaten fried .
How we cook them at Curtigghiu: the Catania recipe
Catania abounds even more with flavors (and calories). Here the sardines a beccafico are not rolled up on their filling, but placed one on top of the other with the filling between the two layers, before being breaded and fried . And, in addition, the caciocavallo is also added to the filling .
This is how we like to prepare them: the mood of the Curtigghiu restaurant – pizzeria is always one of closeness to tradition and the revival of certain flavors. So, among the Catania specialties, we decided not to miss this from our menu: for its simple but incisive flavor, for its homemade and fun story, which tells of inventiveness and a spirit of adaptation.
Come and visit us for lunch or dinner: you can find us in via Santa Filomena 43 .
You can book a table by calling +39 095 586 1352 or using the online booking form.