Sarde means sardine in Italian, but these are no canned sardines. This beautiful salty, sweet combination of flavors soaks into golden strands of whole wheat spaghetti and you won't be able to get enough. I feature this pasta during my Feast of the Seven Fishes every year, and it's always the first leftovers to go. If you substitute your own favorite tomato sauce for the homemade version in this recipe, you can have it on the table in 20 minutes. Even if you think you don't like anchovies or sardines, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy this one-- it's not too fishy, just make sure to use good ingredients! —Meatballs&Milkshakes
whole wheat or spelt spaghetti (1 package)
large onion, diced
fennel bulb, diced
garlic cloves, minced
extra virgin olive oil
can San Marzano tomatoes, whole and crushed by hand is my preferred
fresh sardines, filleted and roughly chopped (you could substitute fresh anchovies or another small fish)
anchovies (packed in oil or salt is fine)
golden raisins (I like to soak them in some marsala, but that's optional)
pine nuts, toasted
saffron threads, steeped in 1 tablespoon hot water
parsley, minced to garnish
optional- toasted homemade breadcrumbs (make using a food processor and toast in a dry pan with a drizzle of olive oil until golden)
To make the tomato sauce, heat a tablespoon of the olive oil and saute half the onions and garlic for a minute until translucent. Add the tomato paste and the oregano and allow the paste to rust for a couple minutes. Add the can of tomatoes and the sugar, and stir through. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until it starts to reduce. This can be done ahead of time, and you can store any extra for other uses.
Bring heavily salted pasta water to boil. Cook the fennel for 5 minutes in the boiling water and then remove with a slotted spoon. Cook the pasta in the fennel water for a minute short of the package instructions, and reserve some pasta water when it’s done.
Meanwhile, simmer the remaining onion and garlic in a tablespoon of the olive oil until softened. Add the fennel and allow to cook together for a few minutes, until any moisture in the pan has evaporated. Remove to a bowl.
Coat the sardine pieces in the flour by tossing together. You don’t have to be too careful with this, you’re not breading each piece. Pour half the remaining olive oil into the pan and saute the sardines in the oil until they start to brown. Add the anchovies and the cooked vegetables. and toss together. Allow to cook together for 5-6 minutes until everything starts to come together.
Add half the tomato sauce, reserving some in case you don’t need all of it. Add the raisins, pine nuts, and saffron water and stir to combine. Toss in the spaghetti along with a 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Allow to cook together for 3-4 minutes, adding more sauce or water depending on if it’s too dry or too thick. Off the heat, drizzle the remaining olive oil and the parsley. Optional to also add some toasted homemade breadcrumbs ( I wouldn't use the pre-made variety unless they are panko breadcrumbs).
I'm an ex-finance, nonprofit fundraiser by day and a (mostly) Italian cook and blogger by night. I love having friends over for dinner and my favorite evenings are when we spend them at home together cooking dinner and chatting. I'm an avid cooking show fan, and my favorite eating cities are New York, San Francisco, Paris, and Rome.