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Sardines with Pasta is a famous dish of Italian cuisine for the precision of Sicilian cuisine. It’s a historical dish not only famous throughout Italy but also in the world. It’s a simple first course prepared with a few very tasty ingredients. Pine nuts, saffron, wild fennel, raisins, onion, breadcrumbs and of course pasta. It’s a quick dish to prepare, the longest part is definitely cleaning the sardines but if you are lucky, in supermarkets you may find them already clean, you will only have to eliminate the tail and the game will be done!
History of the Sardines with Pasta
The history of this dish has roots in the 9th century a.c., during the Arab / Byzantine period. Story goes that the general Eufemio da Messina who did not approve of the Byzantine empire, decided to lead rebels to try to unseat them. The coup failed, he was captured and then chased away with the pretext of trying to get a nun to give up his vows because he had fallen in love with her. Eufemio da Messina took refuge in Turkish territory and allied himself with the Saracen army and led the army to Sicily. Once they landed in the city of Mazara del Vallo they found themselves facing the situation of having to feed the troops.
A chef whose name unfortunately is unknown, had to make do with the few ingredients available, the saffron and raisins that the Saracen expedition brought with them and the pasta, sardines and fennel they found on Sicilian territory, thus creating the dish that we love so much. Subsequently other ingredients were added such as pine nuts and breadcrumbs.
Variants of the Recipe
The Pasta with Sardines Recipe also has variants. The classic white, the red version with the addition of tomato paste. Pasta with “Sardine a Mare”, where fresh sardines are replaced with salted sardines. This recipe saw the light during the war period, where sardines were not available all over the territory, especially widespread in the hinterland. The ‘ncasciata’ version, a timbale of pasta that is cooked in the oven until golden brown, and finally in Messina it’s prepared without saffron.
The version that I propose to you today is the classic one, also known as Pasta with Sardines alla Palermitana, and if you like sardines try Beccafico Sardines another Sicilian dish.
Sardines with Pasta: “Pasta con le Sarde”
- 300 g Bucatini Pasta
- 600 g Sardines
- 2 Yellow Onion
- 400 g Wild Fennel
- 50 g Pine Nuts
- 80 g Raisins
- 1 sachet Saffron
- to taste Breadcrumbs
- to taste Salt
- to taste Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- to taste Black Pepper
- Start putting the raisins in warm water. If you have not found the fresh sardines already cleaned, clean them by removing scales, head, fishbone and tail. Rinse them quickly under cold water. Cut each fillet in half and then in 2 or three pieces according to size.
- In a pan, brown the breadcrumbs with a couple of tablespoons of oil, until golden brown. Put a pan full of water on the fire. Wash the wild fennel and boil it for 5 minutes. Drain it without spilling the water and coarsely chop it. Cut the onion into thin slices and stew it in a pan with olive oil.
- Cook the pasta.
- Remove the raisins from the water and set them aside, in the raisins water dissolve the saffron. Once the onion is stewed, add the saffron, raisins and pine nuts, leave to flavor for a couple of minutes and add the sardines, fennel and ground pepper.
- Cook for a couple of minutes. Drain the pasta keeping the cooking water aside. Add pasta and pasta water if it's dry. Sauté to flavor,ater. Serve with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs.