Prep 10 mins
Cook 50 mins
This is a simple, but classic, Sicilian pasta that has Arabic overtones. The sauce is made with fennel, raisins, sardines and pine nuts. It is usually spooned over a broad or tubular pasta and then topped with a generous sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs. While I have chosen a simple toss and top application, some cooks prefer to create multiple layers using these ingredients. The breadcrumbs in the dish are used in place of cheese and at one time they actually served that function for the poor. They also have a symbolic importance for those who observe St. Joseph's Day. As you know, Joseph was a carpenter and the breadcrumbs that crown this dish are used because they resemble the sawdust that would be found on the floor of a carpenter's workshop. Pasta con sarde is also known as St. Joseph's pasta, and in those communities where his feast day is still celebrated, you'll find this pasta on family tables, as well as on symbolic altars set up to feed the poor.
- 1⁄4 cup raisins
- 1⁄8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1⁄4 cup dry white wine
- 1⁄2 tablespoon butter
- 1⁄4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 1⁄4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1 lb fennel, bulb finely chopped, fronds chopped and reserved
- 1⁄2 tablespoon fennel seed, crushed
- 1 lb fresh sardine (trimmed and deboned, yielding 1 and 1/4 lbs)
- 1⁄2 lb pasta (bucatini)
- 1⁄4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1⁄8 cup capers, rinsed
- fresh ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Combine the raisins, red-pepper flakes and wine in a bowl; set aside.
- In a small saute pan, melt the butter.
- Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until golden brown.
- Transfer to a bowl, stir in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and set aside.
- In a heavy skillet, heat 1/2 cup olive oil over medium-low heat.
- When hot, add the onion, garlic, fennel bulb and fennel seeds.
- Season with salt.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender, about 25 minutes.
- Add the wine mixture and the sardines, breaking them into pieces with a fork.
- Bring to a boil and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add enough salt to the boiling water so that it tastes salty.
- Boil the bucatini until 'al dente', 6 to 8 minutes; strain.
- Return the pasta to the pot and set over low heat.
- Fold in the fennel-sardine mixture.
- Toss in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil.
- Add 3/4 of the fennel fronds, the pine nuts, the capers and a quarter of the bread crumbs.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Divide pasta among plates and sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs and fennel fronds over each.
- Serve immediately. Serves 2.
- That's it!
I really want to try this recipe from scratch one day. My grandmother, born in Louisiana of Sicilian parents, would celebrate St. Joseph's Day by cooking this dish. She never wrote down any recipies, so I don't have it, but am happy to find it here! I have used the canned Con Sarde and added tomato paste and water to it and then served it over spaghetti. I learned of the canned product and was so happy to, after many years, experience the taste of this wonderful dish!