Saveur Recipe: Pasta with Sardines

Pasta with Sardines

This saffron-tinged pasta dish from the latest Saveur cookbook offering: The Way We Cook: Portraits from Around the World, has a sweet-savory tomato-based sauce bolstered with sardines, dried currants, and pine nuts. It’s a standby among Sicilian home cooks like Giovanna Giglio Cascone.

Serves 8


1 cup olive oil

1 ½ lbs. cleaned fresh sardine filets

Semolina flour, for dredging

2 medium fennel bulbs, finely chopped, fronds reserved

2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped

2 tbsp. tomato paste

6 oil-packed anchovy filets, drained and finely chopped

1 cup tomato sauce

3 tbsp. pine nuts

1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

¼ tsp. saffron

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 lb. Spaghetti


  1. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a 10” skillet over medium-high heat. Toss 6 sardine fillets in semolina to coast, shaking off excess, and then fry in oil until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and then roughly chop and set aside to be used as a garnish.
  1. Heat remaining oil in a 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Add fennel and onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Roughly chop; add remaining sardines along with the tomato paste and anchovies, and cook, stirring often, until broken down and melted into the sauce, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, currants, pine nuts, nutmeg, saffron, and salt and pepper; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta; cook until al dente, 7-8 minutes. Drain and transfer pasta to a sauce along with fennel fronds and toss until evenly coated; top with reserved fried sardines, and serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from Weldon Owen Publishing

Image: Landon Nordeman

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.