The following recipe was sent to us from Aldo Bacciulli from Catania, Sicily. It is usually prepared using the Magghia Masculina anchovy (although any type will do), a species that is still fished traditionally in the Gulf of Catania after nearly becoming extinct, and is now protected by a Slow Food Presidium. The dish is commonly found in the island’s hinterland and was typically made from preserved anchovies, but today fresh fish are preferred.
Sicilian anchovies in lettuce (masculine ‘na lattuga)
Serves 10 as a starter
20 lettuce leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 salted anchovy
2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and squashed
300 grams of breadcrumbs
50 g (6 tbsp) capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
50 grams of almonds, toasted and chopped lengthways
50 grams of grated pecorino cheese
rind of 1 untreated lemon, grated
salt and pepper
40 fresh anchovies, cleaned and boned
Briefly drop the lettuce leaves into boiling water, removing them when they have softened but still retain some crunch. Drain and leave to dry on kitchen towel.
Heat the olive oil and the salted anchovy in a large skillet over a very low flame, letting the anchovy melt into the oil before adding the garlic, breadcrumbs, almonds and capers. Stir continuously until uniformly browned.
Remove from heat. Discard the garlic and add the pecorino and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Now get the lettuce leaves and place two anchovies topped with a large spoon of the prepared mix in the centre of each.
Fold in the sides of the leaves to create a parcel, and place them tightly together in a baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes at 180 C