Pasta con le Sarde: the master recipe of Sicily

When you plan a trip to Sicily you also have to take into account that you will gain some weight. The culinary tradition of Sicily is a real art. There is no recipe you will not get mad for, spanning from the world known Arancine (rice balls), to the incredibly tasty Granitas, the almond based cakes, the fish and much more.

The issue is that every plate is so tasty that there won’t be any leftovers on you plate, even if the portions are pretty big. Tomatoes taste different in Sicily as well as eggplants, peaches, organges and so on…even the salt is different. If you can, try to find some Salt from Marsala and you’ll get what I mean.

Among the several recipes I wanted to make once home I picked one which originated in the area of Palermo, although nowadays you find it everywhere in Sicily. It’s called Pasta con le Sarde. Pretty easy to prepare but very very tasty. I have to be honest with you: my pasta con le Sarde was good, but denitely not the same as those I had in Sicily. However, let’s do some practice together thus you know what to expect once you go visit the Island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea.

Pasta con le Sarde

Pasta con le Sarde. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Ingredients (serve 4)

  • 250 grams of fresh sardines
  • a big bunch of wild fennel (finocchietto selvatico)
  • 30 grams of pine nuts
  • 30 grams of raisins
  • 1 medium size white onion
  • 3 anchovies fillet
  • Saffron (in powder)
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper and salt to taste

The Pasta: this recipe is usually made with Bucatini, sort of a very big spaghetti with a hole in the middle. If you can’t find Bucatini you may use the biggest spaghetti you find or even Linguine, which is sort of flat spaghetti.

I made it with a different kind of Pasta which I bought in Palermo called Busiata. It’s made by rolling a flat hand made pasta strip around a knitting needle to give it a cork screw shape. I used 300 grams of it.

Busiata. Traditional hand made pasta from Sicily


Clean the wild fennel carefully by removing the hard stems and boil it for at least 10 minutes, then drain it and let it dry. Then cut it with a knife.

Clean the sardines by opening them in the middle, remove the fishbone, the heads and the tail.

Re-hydrate the rainins in a glass with a bit of warm water for approximately 5 minutes, meanwhile chop the onion and put it in a frying pan with olive oil (be generous) togehter with 2 or 3 fillet of anchovies. when it starts to sizzle add the saffron previously dissolved in a bit of warm water.

Now squeeze the raisins with the palm of you hand and put them in the pan together with the pine nuts. Cook for approx 1 or 2 minutes, then add the sardines. When they start dissolving, add the wild fennel (previously cut in small pieces) and let cook for for approximately 5 minutes. Add half a glass of water it the sauce looks too dry and cook for 2 more minutes.

Dressing for pasta con le sarde. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Meanwhile boil the Pasta (bucatini, spaghettoni, linguine or Busiata). If you like it “al dente” you can boil for 6 minutes, up to 8 minutes if you like it soft (the Italian understanding of soft). When ready, drain the pasta and put it in the frying pan togehter with the sauce and mix everything. You should toss the pasta in the pan, but if you are not expert, don’t worry, just use a wooden spoon.

Pasta con le Sarde. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Mix it all well for a couple of minutes at medium fire, than put you pasta in the plate.

Enjoy it with a glass of white wine. I paired it with Grillo wine, from western Sicily.

Pasta con le Sarde. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

6 thoughts on “Pasta con le Sarde: the master recipe of Sicily

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