Pasta con le Sarde

  • Serves

    serves 4-6

Many Sicilian-Americans serve this dish, laced with golden raisins and fennel, on Christmas Eve. This recipe first appeared in our December 2011 issue along with the special feature Italian America.


  • 12 cup olive oil
  • 14 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced, plus 1/2, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 12 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
  • 3 leaves basil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1 14 lb. fresh sardines, filleted and chopped
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 4 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 1 cup golden raisins, soaked for 30 minutes, drained
  • 14 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 12 tsp. crushed saffron, soaked in 1 tbsp. warm water
  • 1 lb. spaghetti, cooked
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley


Step 1

Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oregano, 1⁄2 minced onion, and garlic; cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes; cook until reduced, about 30 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper; set sauce aside.

Step 2

Bring a 4-qt. saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add fennel; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain; set aside. Heat 1⁄4 cup oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Toss sardines in flour; add to skillet. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add remaining oil, sliced onions, reserved fennel, and anchovies; cook until very soft, about 14 minutes. Add reserved sauce, raisins, pine nuts, and saffron water; cook to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Add pasta; toss with sardine sauce. Transfer to a large serving platter; sprinkle with parsley.

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