Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Bucatini pasta with sardines and wild fennel

10 minutes to prepare Serves 4

You had me at Bucatini


Pasta with sardines and wild fennel is a typical poor dish of Sicilian cuisine which comes from the combination of a few simple ingredients: sardines, raisins, pine nuts, and wild fennel.

Behind this simplicity lies a great symphony of flavors and aromas: from the taste of the sardines, we get to the fresh and aromatic touch of the fennel, very intense.
In my mother's dialect, this recipe is called “Pasta chi sardi“, which immediately reminds me of my grandma, who initiated me to this pasta, many years ago.

The peculiarity of this recipe is that – in Italy – fishermen are allowed to catch sardines only between March and September. Moreover, just in this same period, wild fennel grows spontaneously and can be yield.
A legend says that the recipe for Pasta with Sardines was born to hide the “bad” smell of sardines with the intense scent of wild fennel.

In Sicily, there are several variations of Pasta with Sardines.
For example around Trapani’s area it’s used (as in my recipe) to sprinkle the dish with crispy breadcrumbs, while in other versions, saffron must be added. Feel free to try it as well!

Here are ingredients for the 4-serving recipe:

320 g Bucatini pasta 
400 g fresh sardines
3 anchovy fillets
3 bunches wild fennel
1 onion peeled and finely chopped
EVO oil
50 g raisins
30 g pine nuts
salt and pepper

  1. Start by putting the raisins in half a glass of water to let it soften
  2. Wash the sprigs of wild fennel, and remove the hardest part. Boil the wild fennel in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Then drain and chop them finely
  3. Keep the cooking water aside (we will cook the pasta inside)
  4. Wash the sardines well, open with the booklet and remove the bone and head
  5. In a non-stick pan with 5 tablespoons of oil, first melt the anchovy for 1 minute, then chop the onion and pour it into the pan adding 8 tablespoons of fennel water
  6. Cook the onion for about 5 then add the raisins drained from the water. Place the sardines into the pan. After a further 5 minutes add the pine nuts and the boiled wild fennel. Add salt and pepper to taste, put on a lid and cook over low heat, stirring, for another 10 minutes (15 minutes if your sardines are large in size)
  7. Bring the water in which you cooked the wild fennel to boil again, when it boils pour 1 tablespoon of salt and cook pasta
  8. At 3/4 of the pasta cooking time, drain pasta directly into the pan and sauté adding, if it becomes too dry, 2 or 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water
  9. Leave to rest for a few minutes, put in a serving dish and, if you like, sprinkle everything with a little breadcrumbs toasted with oil and anchovy.

Nutrition Facts are listed for this recipe in the table below. Data is provided per serving.

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