Pasta with Sardines

Pasta con le sarde

Sicilia

This is the most typical of Sicilian pasta dishes.  The wild fennel leaves, which lend a distinctive flavour, can be replaced with cultivated fennel tops.

SERVES 6

12 -14 fresh sardines

Salt

1 medium onion, chopped

Olive oil

8 tablespoons chopped green fennel leaves

25g (1 oz) raisins, soaked in water

50g (2oz) pine nuts

Flour

400g (1 lb) spaghetti

6 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs, toasted

Scale, dean and bone the sardines and remove the heads. Open them out flat. Wash and salt them.

Fry the onion in 2 tablespoons of oil until golden, then add the fennel and cook gently. Add the drained raisins and the pine nuts and cook through.

Flour the sardines lightly and deep-fry in oil.  Boil the spaghetti until al dente and drain. Mix the spaghetti with the fennel mixture and add a spoonful or two of raw olive oil, if you like, and one or two of pasta water.  Arrange the sardines on top.

Pass the breadcrumbs around for everyone to sprinkle on top. (Breadcrumbs, known as ‘poor man’s parmesan’, were sprinkled over pasta by the poor, who could not afford the real thing.)

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