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Tuna-Stuffed Grilled Sardines (Sardine alla Griglia con Tonno)

Sardines are plentiful in southern Italy, where you will find them marinated, fried, baked and grilled. They are nutritious, sustainable and delicious. Here, stuffed with tuna, seasoned with lemon juice and served over arugula, they make a scrumptious main dish.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. wild or baby arugula
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 large whole sardines, scales, guts and backbones removed by the fishmonger
  • 1 can (2.8 oz.) imported Italian tuna in olive oil, drained but oil reserved
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tsp. capers, drained and finely chopped
  • Fine sea salt, to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

Prepare a hot fire in a grill.

In a bowl, toss the arugula with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Arrange the arugula on a serving platter.

Rinse the sardines inside and out and carefully pat them dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the tuna, parsley and capers. Spoon a little of the tuna mixture into the cavity of each sardine. Close the sardines around the filling and secure them with toothpicks. Brush them with a little of the reserved tuna oil and sprinkle with salt.

Arrange the sardines carefully on the grill grate and cook until charred and nicely grill-marked underneath, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a spatula, gently turn the sardines over and cook until charred on the other side and the flesh is opaque throughout, about 3 minutes more.

Transfer the sardines to the bed of arugula and drizzle with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti (Weldon Owen, 2011).