Pasta con le Sarde is an ancient Sicilian dish of humble origins made with sardines, wild fennel, saffron, sultanas and pine nuts: a mix of flavours ranging from salty to sweet, typical of the Arab-influenced Sicilian culinary culture.

This pasta dish is unique to the city of Palermo, in fact it is also called Pasta con le Sarde alla Palermitana.

Every Sicilian city has its own version of pasta with sardines. In Messina, it is with toasted almonds without saffron.

The most commonly used type of pasta is bucatini, but spaghetti and linguine also work great.

Serves 4, Preparation 40 minutes, Cooking about 25 minutes

  • 400 g long pasta, bucatini or spaghetti or linguine
  • 400 g fresh sardines or sardines in oil
  • 2 bunches of fresh wild fennel
  • 50 g pine nuts
  • 50 g raisins
  • 3 anchovy fillets in oil
  • 1 onion
  • A pinch of saffron powder: 0.15 g to dilute or saffron pistils about 30 threads to dilute
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Breadcrumbs, to taste
  • EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 tablespoons


If you use fresh sardines, debone them, cut them in half lengthwise, rinse them under water to remove any residue, dry them with paper towels and set them aside.

Soak the raisins in warm water for about 15-20 minutes. Squeeze and dry them, set aside.

Dilute the saffron powder or saffron threads in a cup of lukewarm water for about 15-20 minutes, set aside.

Boil the bunches of wild fennel in salted boiling water for about 10-15 minutes, drain, chop and set aside, saving the cooking water for cooking the pasta later.

Chop the onion and brown it in a saucepan with 2 spoonfuls of EVOO, add the anchovy fillets which will melt, then the pine nuts, toast them for a few minutes, then the sultanas and the fresh sardines, turn up the heat and brown them on a high flame for 2 minutes, lower the flame, add the chopped fennel leaves together with the diluted saffron, stir everything again trying not to let the sardines flake, add a ladle of cooking water, a pinch of pepper and cook everything for about 8-10 minutes.

Toast the breadcrumbs in a saucepan with a little oil, set aside.

Bring to boil the water in which you had blanched the fennel, cook the pasta, drain it al dente, add it to the pan with the sardine sauce, mix healthy, add the toasted breadcrumbs, serve.

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