Pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines) is one of those recipes which characterize an entire region representing the best Sicilian cooking can offer.
Its monumentality does not derive exclusively from the fact of being a recipe known all over the world, nor is it “only” due to its undisputed goodness.
Pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines) is important because it encloses centuries of cultural gastronomic stratifications which led it to be what it represents: the highest expression of what today is called “zero km cooking”.
If the economic conditions of the lower classes of the past forced people to make a virtue out of necessity, the ingenuity of the housewives of that time anticipated, with foresight, that gastronomic culture which creates dishes with what nature and the surrounding territory make available.
Sardines are taken from the sea, there is always a little bit of pasta around, with time you get to use the wild fennel that grows along the roads or just in the hills and that maybe helps to dampen the smell of the not very fresh fish.
I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that pasta with sardines is a compendium of applied philosophy.
At first sight the ingredients of pasta with sardines would seem to be difficult to reconcile. In reality, a harmonious dish has been created in which every single ingredient plays its part.
- 11 oz of Bucatini pasta
- 17 oz of sardines
- 6 oz of wild fennel
- 1 onion
- 1/4 cup of raisins
- 1/3 cup of pine nuts
- 3/8 cup of almond grains
- 5 salted anchovies
- 4 tbsp of extra virgin oil
- 70 ml. of water to diluite
- 1 sachet saffron powder
- fine salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
To prepare pasta with sardines, start by cleaning the sardines if they are not already clean. It will be enough to detach the head and open them by sliding your finger between the two parts, after which you can delicately detach the central bone.
During this operation, help yourself with a trickle of running water, in order to eliminate the waste and clean the flesh of the sardines at the same time.
Keep the cleaned sardines aside by arranging them on a plate.
Continue by soaking the raisins for about ten minutes.
Slice the onion as finely as possible (you can chop it with the mixer for a few moments in a discontinuous manner, so as not to obtain a mush) and pour into a pan along with the olive oil and anchovies.
Cook for about ten minutes over low heat, stirring often, so as to wilt the sauce without burning it and dissolve the anchovies.
In the meantime, dissolve the saffron in the water using a fork, then pour it into the pan and add the cleaned sardines.
Then drain and rinse the raisins and pour them into the pan, add the almonds and pine nuts, stir and continue cooking, still over low heat, for another 10 minutes.
Put a pot on the stove with plenty of water and let it come to a boil and then boil the fennel. If you buy fennel to be cleaned, you can buy 180 g (6 oz) of it so that once cleaned, removing the toughest parts, you will be left with 125 g (4.40 oz) useful for the recipe.
Then rinse the most tender portion and blanch for a couple of minutes.
Drain it well, without throwing away the water, leaving the fennel to cool for a few moments so as not to burn yourself.
Squeeze and compact it and chop it with a knife, cutting it at a distance of a couple of centimeters from each other; then add it to the pan: add salt and pepper and stir to mix well.
Then take the pasta and boil it in the water you have kept aside and in which you have cooked the fennel, finally, cook the bucatini so they will absorb all the flavor and aroma of the fennel. In the meantime the pasta is cooking, toast the breadcrumbs in a pan with 10 g of oil. Stir often so as not to burn it and when it is golden brown turn off the flame.
At this point the pasta should be cooked so drain it al dente and pour it into the pan for a brief stir-fry.
Serve and garnish with the panure and your pasta with sardines is ready.
PASTA WITH SARDINES (PASTA CON LE SARDE)