Pasta with Fennel and Sardines (Pasta che’ sardi)
You just need a little imagination to be convinced that you have to try this Italian pasta recipe. Start with bringing the fennel taste to mind, then the fishiness of sardines and the strong taste of anchovies, sweeten it with the raisins and give it a crunch with the pine nuts.
leaves from 2 fennel bulbs or 2 large bunches of fresh dill
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb cleaned fresh sardines or 2 (6 oz)cans or sardines
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (4-oz) can flat anchovy filets
½ cup raisins
½ cup pignoli (pine nuts)
1 lb bucatini or perciatelli pasta
Cook the fennel leaves in 8 cups of boiling salted water for 10 minutes or until tender but still bright green. Remove the fennel from the water with a slotted spoon, cool, chop coarsely, and set aside.
Heat the olive oil, add the sardines, and fry until golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes). Without turning off the heat, remove the sardines from the pan, leave the oil in the pan, and set aside.
Add the garlic to the leftover oil, stir, and before the garlic begins to color, add the anchovy fillets, and let them dissolve into the oil. Add the raisins, pignoli, cooked fennel and half of the fried sardines, reserving the nicest looking ones to top the pasta. If using canned sardines, simply add them to the sauce. Cook 5 minutes, and turn the heat off.
Cook the pasta in the fennel water, drain, and reserve ½ cup of the cooking water. Add the drained pasta to the sauce together with the reserved pasta water. Toss well.
Place on a serving platter, arrange the rest of the fried sardines on top, and serve with toasted bread crumbs, to be passed around the table.