Pasta con le Sarde

Pasta con le Sarde

Prep: 5 mins

Cook: 25 mins

Total: 30 mins

Servings: 2 servings

Yield: 2 plates

Pasta con le Sarde (pasta with sardines) is the national dish of Sicily, in which the tradition of Italian pasta meets the Mediterranean island’s seafood-focused cuisine. It’s a true classic, passed down through generations of Italian nonnas. Sardines are sauteed with fresh fennel, onion, and garlic, then deglazed with white wine and orange juice infused with saffron. Currants, pine nuts, and toasted fennel seeds add some extra dimension and texture. Fresh fennel fronds add a lovely hint of green color and anise fragrance.

Saffron isn’t an everyday ingredient, so it’s optional in this dish. If you don’t have any saffron in the cupboard, don’t let that stop you from enjoying this pasta con le sarde.


  • 1/4 cup golden currants, or raisins

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice

  • Pinch saffron threads, optional

  • 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds

  • 8 ounces spaghetti, or bucatini

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 (125-gram) cans oil-packed sardines, drained

  • 1 medium fennel bulb, halved, trimmed, and thinly sliced, fronds reserved

  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Add currants, wine, and orange juice to a small bowl. If using saffron, add that as well. Set aside to soak.

  3. Set a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel seed and toast until slightly darkened and fragrant. Remove seeds to a small bowl. If you have a mortar and pestle, you can lightly crush them. If not, leave them whole. Set aside.

  4. Set a large pot of water over high heat. Bring to a boil. Add salt followed by pasta. Cook until almost al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes (or according to package directions). Drain pasta, reserving a little of the pasta water. Coat pasta with a small amount of oil to prevent it from sticking together as it cools.

  5. Heat skillet again over medium heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot but not smoking, add the sardines. Sear for 1 to 2 minutes, then add fennel (reserving fronds), onion, and garlic. Cook until vegetables have slightly softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.

  6. Add raisins with soaking liquid, toasted fennel seeds, and pine nuts. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring periodically, until liquid has reduced by about two-thirds. Remove from heat.

  7. Add cooked pasta to skillet with sardine mixture. Toss well. If sauce seems a little dry, add a small amount of the reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  8. Top with fennel fronds and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 692
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 42g 54%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 26mg 9%
Sodium 248mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 64g 23%
Dietary Fiber 6g 20%
Total Sugars 19g
Protein 15g
Vitamin C 23mg 117%
Calcium 158mg 12%
Iron 5mg 25%
Potassium 779mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.


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