One of the most visited pages on this blog is my recipe for pasta con le sarde made with tinned sardines. Yesterday, I had the chance to buy fresh sardine fillets. I can now tell you that the tinned version is not only cheaper and quicker, it's also much much more delicious - softer and sweeter.
Pasta con le sarde is one of those lovely dishes you can make from spring to autumn, full of the omega-3 goodness of oily fish and the herby freshness of the three types of fennel used: bulb, seeds and wavy fronds. Actually, you can make it in winter too, only then there's only one hit of fennel, the seeds. It's a Sicilian dish, so it has that tasty agro-dolce thing with the sultanas and anchovies. Well worth a try, if you don't know it. It's my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook.
Fennel has a faint taste of aniseed. Thomas Jefferson was sent seeds by the American consul in Livorno in 1824; he didn't know the plant, but, once he harvested them at his garden at Montecello, Virginia, he was a convert: Fennel is beyond every other vegetable, delicious, perfectly white. No vegetable equals it in flavour.
This recipe is a simplified version of the one found in Tamasin's Kitchen Bible, which, in turn, derives from Anna del Conte.
Pasta con le sarde
a handful of sultanas
a handful of pinenuts
2 medium onions
1 head of fennel
4-6 sardine fillets, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
Soak the sultanas in a little hot water. Peel and finely slice the onion into rings. Put into a wide saucepan with plenty of olive oil and gently stew. Toast the pinenuts in a dry frying pan. Dice the fennel and blanch in water for one minute; save the cooking water. Add all these ingredients (but not the water) to the onions, and continue to cook for at least 15 minutes until everything is getting soft.
Put on a large pan of cold water. Add the fennel seeds and the anchovies to your sauce (no need to chop them, they'll cook down in no time). When the water comes to the boil, add the pasta. Then add the sardines to the sauce.
If at any point the sauce gets too dry, add a little of the blanching water.
Everything will be ready at the same time. Drain the pasta and gently stir in the sauce. Garnish with the chopped whispy bits from the fennel.
Pasta con sarde
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