Pasta with Sardines
- 1 lb bucatini
- 1 bunch wild fennel fronds
- 1 onion
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 desalted anchovies
- 1 lb sardines , fresh
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 oz pine nuts
- 1 oz raisins
- ¾ oz almonds , roasted and chopped
- 1 pinch saffron
- 2 oz breadcrumbs
- frying oil to taste
- 1 tablespoon butter
Clean and boil the wild fennel, in a pot of salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and reserve the water. Shake off excess water and cut a 1/2-inch dice.
Clean and debone the anchovies and fresh sardines. Butterfly 4 of the sardines and set aside. Soak the raisins in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes, then drain.
Toast the breadcrumbs in a small pan over high heat until golden.
Place a larger pan over medium heat. Add the oil and, as soon as it is hot, add the finely chopped onion. Once the onion is golden, add the anchovies. Break them apart using a fork, then immediately add the fresh sardines, raisins, pine nuts and toasted almonds.
Cook for about 10 minutes, then adjust the salt and pepper. Add the wild fennel and a pinch of saffron. Stir gently and lower the heat. Cook for another 10 minutes.
To a separate small frying pan, add enough oil to totally submerge the sardines. Place the pan over high heat and, once the oil begins to boil, fry the 4 butterflied sardines until golden.
Use a slotted spoon the remove the sardines from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
Bring the reserved fennel cooking water to a boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and cook for the time indicated on the box. Drain the pasta and toss with the sardine and fennel sauce. Transfer the pasta to a baking dish greased with butter. Cover with the breadcrumbs and 4 fried sardines.
Bake in a 425°F oven for 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and serve.
Pasta with sardines is probably one of the dishes that best represent Sicilian cuisine due to its main ingredients: fish and pasta.
Both sardines and anchovies are fundamental to this recipe and are considered blue fish, or “pesci azzuri” in Italian. This non-scientific category is used to group together small fish that have a blue dorsal fin, many of which live in the Mediterranean Sea. The fish are commonly used in Sicilian recipes, including pasta dishes and a delicious main course called “sarde a beccafico.”
According to a legend, pasta was introduced to Italy by the Chinese.
Already in 1154, a good150 years before the return of Marco Polo from Catai, Arab sources state that near Palermo people ate “a flour-based food in the shape of strings” called “triyah”: the ancestor to today’s spaghetti.
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