| Recipes

Sarde a beccafico by Carmela D'Amore

Every Sicilian dish has a story for you to explore and learn about.

Sicily is called the island of the Sun, so many different cultures have left their mark on this magnificient island.

The last few weeks I have been teaching on Sarde a Beccafico, there are so many stories about these.

Here is the story about the Sardines:

Maria Carolina the wife of Ferdinand the first, and the sister of Marie Antoinette imported French chefs to the royal court of my beloved Palermo in 1805.

A little history about Maria Karolina:

here you can find a picture and information about Maria Karolina.


`Crowned queen of Naples and Sicily on her marriage to Ferdinand I (1768); dominated her passive, uneducated husband; within a few years of marriage, was ruling the country in Ferdinand's name; first 20 years of her joint reign were extremely successful and marked by several efforts to reform and modernize Naples; last 20 years were clouded by the results of the French Revolution, including the execution of her sister Marie Antoinette, the temporary occupation of Naples by Jacobin forces, and finally the annexation of Naples as part of the Napoleonic empire; died at the very end of the Napoleonic wars, just before Naples was restored to her husband by the Congress of Vienna.'


These chefs became known as Monsu’ an abbreviation of the word monsieur, the duchess of Palermo Nicoletta Polo told me the story on my last visit to Palermo in 2017 while we where doing a cooking class with this wonderful lady who is an icon and an asset to the city of Palermo.'

Slowly the Sicilians who had served their apprenticeships under the French cooks, took over the kitchens and continued to bear this prestigious title.

Monsu’ were able to produce magnificent flavours into the kitchens of Sicily, the art of expressing through food such sophisticated presentation, one that continues till today, Sicilians are very inventive with food, it is an art.

The Sicilians creatively removed the Norman dishes and filled their specialties with the exoticness of a southern land bathed in sunshine and all the virtues of the east.

They used the spices from the east, marinated the meats in lemon juice and used breadcrumbs pine nuts and currant fillings.

Sarde a Beccafico originally consisted in roasted quail small birds, some even believe robins, I am not happy about that! As they are my favourite bird to watch they are magnificent with their beautiful tail!

While the poor people could not afford such expensive delicacy, their inventive ways of making the best with what they have, created them to use an their alternative by substituting sardines which is the final result of this amazing dish from Palermo that has travelled through to my cooking classes in Sorrento Victoria today in 2018!

The choice of the sardines is ingenious as the fish’s tail resembles a bird or a robins tail.

The beccafico is a gluttonous bird that loves the ripe figs and is considered in the gourmet word a delicious bird to eat which I am sure has been used in this recipe!

Try creating this delicious 18th century recipe with your family its so easy... While you are cooking and creating this meal tell them about this amazing story and make memories through food.

Recipe for Sarde a Beccafico

For 4

  • 50 gr dried currants
  • 1kg of fresh sardines filleted and cleaned
  • 300 gr breadcrumbs homemade soak old bread in milk for about half an hour and drain the excess milk
  • 3-4 salted anchovies, rinsed well
  • 1 tablespoon of capers diced fine
  • 100 gr roasted pine nuts
  • 2 hand fulls of chopped, mint
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • virgin olive oil


Begin by soaking the currants in lukewarm water and in the meantime, prepare your sardine fillets place them on a board with grease proof paper so that they don't stick to the board, you can spray the paper with virgin olive oil, and let them sit while you...

In a pan, toast the breadcrumbs with a few glugs of olive oil until golden. Transfer them to a bowl and add the drained currants, the anchovies, chopped finely, the pine nuts, the mint and the orange zest. Combine well.

Place a teaspoon of this mixture on the inside of each fillet then roll it up. Place side by side, tails sticking up, in a tray with greaseproof paper. Scatter any remaining breadcrumb mixture over the top and sprinkle olive oil and orange juice over the top and virgin olive oil and add more chopped mint on top, then place in a hot oven (about 200-220ºC) for about 15-20 minutes or until cooked and golden brown. Let rest for a moment before serving this dish warm or at room temperature, rather than piping hot.

Serve with a salad and fresh bread..

Every time I go to Palermo I walk to the Quattro Canti, officially known as Piazza Vigliena, is a Baroque square in Palermo, Sicily, Southern Italy.

It was laid out on the orders of the Viceroys between 1608-1620[1] by Giulio Lasso at the crossing of the two principal streets in Palermo, the Via Maqueda and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

The piazza is octagonal, four sides being the streets; the remaining four sides are Baroque buildings, the near-identical facades of which contain fountains with statues of the four seasons, the four Spanish kings of Sicily, and of the patronesses of Palermo, (Christina, Ninfa, Olivia and Agata). The facades onto the interchange are curved, and rise to four floors; the fountains rise to the height of the second floor, the third and fourth floors contain the statues in niches. At the time the piazza was built, it was one of the first major examples of town planning in Europe.

You can feel the era of what once was, it is truly an experience to stand and look at the four Spanish Kings with the fountains, there is a little passage way in one of the corners that you can stand on the balcony and look around, an experience you will take back home with you.

Buon appetito!


Carmela D’Amore

Carmela D’Amore

Carmela D’Amore is an International Sicilian chef, the daughter and granddaughter of Sicilian migrants, with over 45 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Ambassador to Sicilian food and culture, a published International author of over 3 books, currently the executive chef of Sorrento Trattoria, an Italian Restaurant situated in Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula.