JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pasta con le sarde revisited

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
for 4

a handful of sultanas
a handful of pinenuts
2 medium onions
olive oil
1 head of fennel
2 anchovies
4-6 sardine fillets, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds

400g pasta

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.

Related posts

Pasta con sarde
White pizza with fennel seeds
Braised fennel


Susan said...

I love tinned sardines to begin with, so I can imagine how amazing this dish is. Are the anchovies fresh or tinned and salted? Does it matter?

Thank you for sharing your recipe for WHB!

Joanna said...

The anchovies I used are packed in oil in a little jar - they're just like the tinned ones, only more convenient to use in small quantities as they keep for ages in the fridge. I don't use salted anchovies ever, we use as little salt as possible in our diet since my husband's heart attack

Hope this helps, Susan


Anonymous said...

This is a timely reminder that I still need to try out your original recipe which I bookmarked ages ago.

Nice to hear that you still rate the convenient tinned sardine version as better

Anonymous said...

This is a 'must try' I'm always on the look-out for ways of using canned sardines as I love the things. Thank you Joanna!

Joanna said...

Yes, I agree, I think tinned sardines are one of the great foodstuffs - though, as with lots of cheap foods, it pays to buy the best you can afford: I use Waitrose own-brand packed in olive oil for cooking, and Spanish sardines in beautiful tins when we're having sardines on toast (also available in Waitrose). I don't buy the ones with lemon or chilli already added, because I prefer these ingredients to be fresh ...


Susan said...

Thanks, Joanna. I'll look for anchovies packed without salt - not easy to come by here. Didn't think you would use extra sodium in anything, but thought to double check. Even though I am not on a salt-restricted diet, I find the typical tinned kind impossible to eat as is.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Totally with you on this. I've been making a version (from an old Valentina Harris book) for nigh on 20 years. It uses cauliflower, though, not fennel. Shall give this version a try!

Kalyn Denny said...

Sounds delicious. I love fennel in anything.

Ed Bruske said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed Bruske said...

Anchovy bread crumbs, pasta with sardine--you always have the most amazing fish dishes, Joanna, and exactly to my taste.