WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Sarde a beccafico is a popular Sardinian appetizer that is made by rolling fresh sardines around a flavorful bread-crumb stuffing. However, these recipes are often labor intensive—calling for removing the spine, head, and tail of the raw fish before rolling it tightly around the bread-crumb mixture and baking. We wanted to develop a more approachable version. Our first decision was to leave the sardines whole and simply cut a cavity that we could easily fill with a bread-crumb mixture. Laying the fish flat instead of rolling them made for an attractive presentation, and, once cooked, the fish was easy to flake off the bones while eating. Next, we focused on creating a flavorful stuffing for the sardines. The stuffing recipes we found contained a wide range of ingredients, from fresh bread crumbs and citrus to dried fruit and anchovies, so our first task was to figure out a flavor profile. We found that freshly made bread crumbs turned pasty when tucked inside the fish, so we opted for sturdier panko crumbs to keep our stuffing crisp and crunchy. Capers provided a briny backbone, golden raisins and a bit of orange zest offered rounded sweetness, and pine nuts contributed welcome crunch. Our simplified stuffed sardines tasted great and made for a beautiful and impressive presentation that packed a big, flavorful bite. Sardines are often sold whole; if so, ask the fishmonger to scale and gut them for you.
⅓ cup capers, rinsed and minced
¼ cup golden raisins, chopped fine
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped fine
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons grated orange zest plus wedges for serving
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
8 fresh sardines (2 to 3 ounces each), scaled, gutted, head and tail on
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Combine capers, raisins, pine nuts, 1 tablespoon oil, parsley, orange zest, garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in bowl. Add panko and gently stir to combine.
2. Using paring knife, slit belly of fish open from gill to tail, leaving spine intact. Gently rinse fish under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub skin of sardines evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Place sardines on prepared sheet, spaced 1 inch apart. Stuff cavities of each sardine with 2 tablespoons filling and press on filling to help it adhere; gently press fish closed.
4. Bake until fish flakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife and filling is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve with orange wedges.
1.Using sharp paring knife, slice gutted fish open from gills to tail, leaving spine intact.
2.Stuff cavities of each sardine with 2 tablespoons filling and press on filling to help it adhere; gently press fish closed.