The secrets to make a perfect pasta with sardines

“Santo ca veni festa ca fai” says an old Sicilian saying. This means that for the Sicilians any excuse to celebrate and St. Joseph, being a deeply felt celebration in Sicily, offers a starting point suitable for a variety of traditional recipes that are a must on the table of Palermo on this day, first of all pasta with sardines.

Pasta with sardines is a traditional dish that has its roots in centuries. Legends date its birth in the period of Arab domination, but recent history combines this culinary delicacy to the feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of the poor. The nobles at that time used to offer and serve at their homes this dish featured ambiguous. In fact it consists of simple ingredients such as sardines and fennel, and other exalted as pine nuts, raisins and saffron.

It is for this reason that if you feel the pungent smell of wild fennel, mixed to the unmistakable smell of sardines, softened by the saffron and the sweetness of raisins and pine nuts, you will no doubt be in Palermo and is 19 March. In almost all the houses in Palermo are intent on debone the sardines, blanch the fennel and fulfill all those ritual gestures that will lead to the preparation of the inevitable pasta with sardines. At least that is what happened in the past.

But if we think of the increasingly frenetic rhithm of life that accompanies our present, maybe we will be hard to think that to prepare a complex seasoning such as pasta with sardines remained an established custom in the houses of all the people of Palermo and are increasingly those who buy it ready at the delis that prepare for the occasion.


Ingredients for 4 people:

bucatini 400 grams A white onion saffron wild fennel 500 grams 3 salted anchovies extra virgin olive oil salt water breadcrumbs 30 grams pine nuts and raisins 250 grams clean sardines 100 grams of tomato paste

Wash the fennel and remove the final part of the tougher stalks. In a large saucepan full of water, pour a tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. At this point add the fennel and cook for 10 minutes over low heat. Drain the fennel to the pan keeping the water that you will need to cook the bucatini and let cool fennel then squeeze it to remove excess water. At this point, cut it into small pieces. Finely chop the onion, pour the oil in a pan to cover the bottom. Add onion and sauté together with 3 anchovy fillets until they melt over low heat. Now add the chopped fennel and a little ‘of water and add the tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper, add the pine nuts, raisins and saffron and then tighten the sauce. Finally add the sardines boned and filleted and cook 5 minutes on low heat. Cook the pasta al dente and saute’ with the sauce. Serve hot with toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled on pasta.

Stefano Goffredo

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