Planet Food Sicily: Pasta con le Sarde

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Pasta con le sarde, the trademark dish of the province of Palermo. Giorgio Locatelli sums it up when he says the Arabic combination of sultanas, nuts and saffron shows the history of the island, yet the ingredients themselves have been indigenous there since classical times.

Ingredients:

  • pasta “maccheroncino“, 400 g. (Or you can use Bucatini pasta – although it’s slightly thicker)
  • fresh sardines, 600 g.
  • onion, 1
  • raisins, 40 g.
  • pine nuts, 50 g.
  • anchovies, 3
  • wild fennel, 6 bunches
  • extra-virgin olive oil. about ½ cup
  • saffron, a generous pinch
  • salt and pepper
  • breadcrumbs, 100 g.

Method:

  1. Clean the wild fennel with cold water then transfer to a pan of boiling, salted water for about 8-10 minutes or until tender. Remove the fennel and set aside and reserve the cooking water which will be used to boil the pasta later.
  2. Heat half the extra-virgin olive oil in a pan and add the chopped onion. Sauté until softened but not coloured, then add the anchovies, stirring until they ‘melt’.
  3. Next, add the pine nuts and the raisins. The secret to soft juicy raisins is to keep them in a cup of hot water for about 15 minutes or until ready to use which will ensure they become plump and delicious when added to the Pasta le Sarde!
  4. Add the chopped wild fennel and the fresh sardines and the remainder of the oil and taste and season with salt and black pepper if necessary, stir and cook for 10 minutes. Refine the sauce with a large pinch of saffron and set it aside.
  5. Boil the pasta al dente in the wild fennel cooking water (about 10 minutes or according to the instructions on the packet)
  6. Drain the pasta and and serve with sauce mixing well. Before serving don’t forget to sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs on top.