Pasta with Sardines: Pasta con le Sarde

Total Time:
1 hr 20 min
Prep:
40 min
Cook:
40 min

Yield:
4 servings
Level:
Intermediate

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds fennel bulbs, greens removed and reserved, bulb cut into sticks
  • 3 pounds whole fresh sardines
  • Semolina flour, for coating
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 3 tablespoons dried currants or raisins, soaked and drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 saffron strands or 1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron
  • 1 pound dried bucatini
Directions

In a hot skillet, add olive oil and saute fennel until caramelized.

Remove the heads of the sardines and pull out the backbones and entrails. Select a few sardines, for garnish. Chop the rest of the sardines for the sauce, set aside. Season the sardines for garnish, to taste with salt and pepper, and coat them with the semolina flour. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil over medium heat. When the oil begins to smoke, cook each flour-coated sardine until a light golden brown, about 1 minute on each side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sardines from the pan and set them aside to drain on a paper towel.

In the skillet with the caramelized fennel, add the onions, currants, tomatoes, pine nuts and saffron. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce briefly to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Add the reserved sardines and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the sardines have broken into pieces and are thoroughly mixed into the sauce, about 10 to15 minutes. If the sauce appears too thick at this point, add a little of the pasta cooking water.

Bring 6 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a rolling boil. Add the bucatini and cook until tender but still al dente. Drain the cooked pasta into a large serving bowl, add 3/4 of the sauce and stir to combine. Top with the remaining sauce and the fried sardines. This pasta tastes best if allowed to sit for several minutes, soaking up the flavors of the sauce, before it is served. Keep the pasta covered during this waiting period, then garnish with reserved fennel fronds.


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    I've never had sardines, but was hoping to have a great experience especially after reading the rave reviews for his dish. I discovered I don't like sardines so it's hard to separate my dislike for this dish without punishing the recipe. The flavors of the sauce before the sardine introduction was actually delicious too bad I didn't save half the batch ;-| If you like sardines then you might enjoy this recipe.
    I made a small batch using about 1 pound of sardines. It was amazing, and my husband was delighted when I told him he did not have to share. He said that it was absolutely amazing! He said it was 5 stars plus. 
    "Pasta con le sarde" isn't too easy to prepare, and this recipe is really well done, and well explained. 
    In my recipe, I add also almonds (reasted and chopped), combined with the sardines, raisins and pine nuts. 
     
    Mario Grazia
    Growing up with both parents being Siciian and living there myself for 6 years this is MY FAVE!!! Loved it since I was a little girl.
     

     
    I KNOW it sounds strange, but PLEASE try it with an open mind.
     

     
    YOU WILL NOT BE SORRY ;)
    Just sharing a quick, healthy, easy and super tasty Sardine recipe:
     

     
    http://miocibo.com/2009/04/28/sardine-and-sun-dried-tomato-pasta/
     

     
    ;D
    I first had this dish when I was living in Sicily. It is from Palermo, on the western side of the island. When I was living in various places since, I could not get the Sardines, or the fresh wild fennel that they use for this recipe in Sicily. If you can get the little baby shoots of wild fennel (they grow on the hillsides in California...and I have hung of cliffs to get to them in La Jolla) it is best, but bulb Fennel with the tenderest green parts works well. I always had this dish with RAISINS (golden or my favorite, brown) in Italy. I have sometimes substituted the Saffron with tumeric and here is the big ta da....the sardines for...CANNED TUNA.! It works really well, and I leave the good quality Albacore or Tongol tuna somewhat chunky in the sauce and add about an inch or two of anchovy paste out of a tube. It is not so fishy, and more approachable for people who find sardines too strong.
     

     
    I am surprised that Mario does not mention the ***toasted salted breadcrumbs*** that are typically served on top, much like parmesan would be. It really makes the dish. It is a great and easy dish to make with the Tuna. This "sauce" IS supposed to be on the dry side; it is a "dry pasta" dish (Pasta Asciuta) and is not supposed to be extremely saucy. Thanks Mario, for bringing back a great memory! We had this tonight on Valentine's and it was great. Grazie Due Milla.
    I knew when I watched this episode that this dish would remind me home cook adjustments of some morrocan dishes that I love and I wasn't disappointed. I did make some home cook adjustmants. Unfortunately I had to use canned sardines, I just added them to the carmelized fennel and cooked for a moment before adding the rest of the ingredients. Their flavor was still great! I was out of saffron and can't wait to make it again when I have some. I also substituted dried cherries for currants because thats what I had. I will definetly make this again what a great balance of flavors!
    The list of ingredients seems perfect, but the recipe which serves 4 is a mess. First - it calls for 3# fish, 2# fennel, 2 onions (another 1#), one 1# tomatoes, and 1# pasta (before cooking) - that works out to over 2# of food per person!!!
     

     
    Next there is something wrong in the text. Mario has us caramelize fennel and then add more or less dry ingredients (the wettest of which is well drained tomatoes). The next instruction is to bring the sauce to a boil - what sauce???!!??
     

     
    Anyway, my humble suggestions would be to cut everything in half except the tomatoes and the currants. The taste as written is good, but the dish is kinda grey and a little dry. More tomatoes and currants would moisten, color it, and sweeten it further.
     

     
    I wonder if Mario ever reads these ... if you do, sir, you are my hero, please fix this recipe.
    I had a dish like this years ago at a restaurant and seeing some fresh sardines in the market recently reminded me of it.
     

     
    This recipe has a very, very different and unusual taste. The fish flavor of the sardines is not overpowering, but strong enough that you know it is there. The combination with the raisins (I used golden raisins for the color) and fennel is something that I didn't know what to think when I ate the first forkful. I liked it more and more as I ate it.
     

     
    My guess is that it would be a very bad idea to use canned sardines in this recipe, though fresh are hard to find in many places.
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