Fig-Pecker Sardines: Sarde a Beccatico

TOTAL TIME: 1 hr 40 min
Prep: 50 min
Inactive Prep: 30 min
Cook: 20 min
YIELD: 4 servings


  • 3 pounds fresh sardines
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 4 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus salt and pepper, as needed
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped, plus extra as needed
  • 4 salt-packed anchovies
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon raisins, soaked and drained
  • 6 fresh bay leaves
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Remove the heads of the sardines and pull out the backbones and entrails. Set the sardines aside. In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs. Fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add 3 sliced lemons, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon chili flakes and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Combine well and set aside for 1 hour.

Finely chop the anchovies, pine nuts, and raisins. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine 3/4 of the bread crumbs, anchovies, pine nuts, raisins, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste. Using a wooden spoon, toss until well-blended. Use this filling to stuff each sardine, using your palms to gently fold each fish closed. Secure with toothpicks. Roll each sardine into a ball, starting at the tail end. Gently lay the sardines side by side in a baking dish, keeping them close so that they retain their shape. Sprinkle with salt. Scatter 6 bay leaves throughout the dish. Sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs over the sardines.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Combine the juice of remaining lemon and 2 tablespoons sugar. Drizzle the sugared juice over the sardines. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the dish and bake until the sardines are cooked, about 30 minutes.

Serve sardines with the lemon salad and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

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