Pasta with Sardines is one the most popular pasta dishes in Sicily—Palermo to be exact—but for all of America's love for pasta this dish has never really caught on. My theory is that pasta con sarde has remained a relatively unknown dish due to the stigma associated with sardines: They are generally thought of as oily, fishy, and kind of stinky. But fresh sardines have little to do with their canned counterparts; they are meaty, tasty, easy to cook, and relatively inexpensive since they aren't one of the more popular purchases at the fish counter.
The third course of our feast of the seven fishes from La Cucina is this simple and hearty pasta with fresh sardines. This pasta has Sicily written all over it, from the wild fennel and pine nuts to the raisins and saffron that are culinary influences from its neighbor southern neighbor, North Africa.
Sweet elements paired with fish might seem a bit unorthodox, but once you put this dish together it will become quite clear that these flavors were made for each other. This is another wonderful dish for company from La Cucina—exotic, simple to prepare, and the ingredients aren't too hard to find, aside from the wild fennel. If you aren't lucky enough to have it growing in your backyard as many Sicilians do, substitute store bought fennel with whole with fronds still attached for the most flavor.
Win La Cucina
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of La Cucina to give away this week.
- Several bunches wild fennel
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, finely sliced
- 2 salt-cured anchovies
- 2 pounds fresh sardines, boned and butterflied
- 3 tablespoons white wine
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1 pound bucatini
Boil the fennel in water to cover, drain well, chop in pieces, and set aside.
Heat half of the olive oil in a pan and saute the onions and anchovies; add about half of the sardines.
Add the fennel, 2 tablespoons water, wine, and salt.
When this is well mixed and the sardines are crumbling, add the remaining sardines, which will remain more intact than the first, along with the pine nuts, raisins, and saffron.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the anchovy paste. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until lightly browned.
Cook the bucatini in lightly salted boiling water until al dente, drain, and toss with the sardine mixture. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and serve.