pasta con le sarde

A traditional Sicilian recipe for pasta with the amazing flavours of fennel, anchovies, saffron, wine, pine nuts and lemon with crunchy bread crumbs on top. I searched high and low for fresh sardines but my fishmonger said they were out of season, so I used good quality tinned ones in olive oil and they are absolutely fine. I make mine with spaghetti Nero but any long pasta works.


Serves 4


  • 1/2 fennel with fronds finely sliced saving the fronds for later
  • 4 cleaned, scaled, deboned sardines chopped or 4 good quality tinned sardines in olive oil (still delicious) chopped in chunks 
  • A glug of oil 
  • A pinch of saffron 
  • 1 red onion finely sliced
  • 4 anchovies tinned in olive oil 
  • 50ml white wine 
  • A small handful of toasted pine nuts
  • A small handful of currants 
  • 400g of spaghetti, bucatini, linguine or spaghettini 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • A large handful of roasted breadcrumbs (see below)
  • Lemon zest 


Firstly put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, drain and set aside. In a large frying pan over a medium heat add the olive oil. Gently fry the onions, anchovies and the fennel till soft and the anchovies have melted. About 10 minutes.

Add the wine and saffron and cook till the pan is almost dry, then add the currants and pine nuts. Add the sardines and cook till the sardines are cooked about five minutes, if using tinned, about a minute. Now add the pasta and gently coat with the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the lemon zest and breadcrumbs and serve with a lemon wedge for squeezing.

To make my bread crumbs, I put a couple of stale slices of bread in my food processor and blitz, I’m not too bothered if they are all small bits, then I roast them (with a sprinkle of olive oil) ’till golden on a baking tray at 200c. 

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