CLASSIC pasta spaghetti with sardines and fennel








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A classic Sicilian dish, heavy with the sardines and in a tomato base, flavored with saffron and fennel. This recipe is adapted from a wonderful, long article on Sicilian cuisine, in turn adapted from a recipe by Anna Tasca Lanza's "The Heart of Sicily".

for the sauce:

  • one and one-half pounds cleaned, fresh sardine fillets (about 50)
  • flour, preferably smolina, for dredging
  • one cup olive oil
  • two cloves garlic, diced
  • two medium fennel bulbs, finely chopped, fonds reserved.
  • two medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • three tablespoons tomato paste
  • six oil-packed anchovy filets, drained and finely chopped
  • three tablespoons pine nuts
  • one cup of tomato sauce
  • one teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • one-quarter teaspoon saffron
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

for the pasta:

  • one pound spaghetti

Heat one-quarter cup of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Toss six of the sardine filets in the flour, shake, and fry about four minutes, until golden brown. Remove, drain on paper towels, and then chop.

Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet: add the garlic, onion and fennel. Cook, stirring regularly for about twenty minutes, until it is carmelized.

 Roughly chop the remaining sardines. Add them to the skillet, along with the tomato paste and anchovies. Cook, stirring regularly about five minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, pine nuts, nutmeg and saffron, plus salt and pepper, and cook, on a medium-low heat, for about twenty minutes, stirring regularly. The sauce should be nicely thickened,

In five quarts of water at a raging boil, add two teaspoons of salt, and the spaghetti. Cook until al dente. Reserve one cup of the liquid. Drain.

Add the spaghetti to the heated sauce; stir; add reserved liquid if necessary to provide the sauce and to evenly coat the pasta. Serve immediately, with the served pasta topped with the reserve fried sardines.


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