Edible Monterey Bay

Stuffed Sardines with Caponata


Courtesy John Cox, Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur

Serves 1 to 2

This is a recipe inspired by a dish I had at Trattoria La Foglia in Siracusa, Sicily. There are as many versions of stuffed sardines as there are towns in Italy, so I encourage you to use this as a base for developing your own signature recipe.


3 fresh sardines, or if unavailable, small mackerel (gutted with scales, head and bones removed)
3 tablespoons seasoned all-purpose flour
1 large organic egg, whisk whipped
1 tablespoon pecorino cheese, grated
1 Meyer lemon, juice, zest and wedges
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pepper, freshly ground
3 tablespoons canola oil

Clean the sardines. To do so, descale them by running a soup spoon against the scales and then rinsing the fish under cold running water.

Cut open the fish belly and remove the guts. Using your hands, pull the head of the fish toward the belly and allow the back bone and ribs to separate from the filet. You will be left with two filets attached to the tail.

Place the sardines skin side down on a sheet. Season with pecorino cheese, lemon zest, freshly squeezed lemon juice, chives, parsley, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Make sure filling is evenly distributed among the filets, then fold each closed. Roll in the seasoned flour then dredge in the whipped egg.

Transfer to a medium-hot pan containing the canola oil. As the sardines cook, gently shake the pan to keep them from sticking. Turn heat to low. After about 1 minute, flip the sardines and, using a spoon, baste them with oil. After about 2–3 minutes, they should be done. Transfer the cooked sardines to a paper towel-lined plate.


1 medium-sized eggplant, cubed
24 mixed color cherry tomatoes, halved
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons golden raisins
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons almonds, slivered
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
4 tablespoons Castelvetrano olives, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a medium-sized sauce pot. Add olive oil. Fry cubed eggplant in the oil until it begins to brown. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes burst and liquid begins to reduce. Add the shallot and garlic. Cook until aromatic. Add the raisins, capers, pine nuts, olives and almonds. Add the white wine vinegar and sugar. Reduce until the eggplant is glazed and mixture begins binding together.

Add the fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice, if needed.

To serve, place three stuffed sardines on a plate. Put the room temperature caponata to the side and add a few Meyer lemon wedges. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

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At Edible Monterey Bay, our mission is to celebrate the local food cultures of Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey Counties, season by season.