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

Ingredients

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

Method

  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