Sicilian Sardine Pasta

Sardine pasta is a traditional Sicilian delicacy, and, as usual for many Italian recipes, is the protagonist of a legend and a historical fact. The ingredients of this dish are typical of Sicily but also inspired by the foreign occupations of the island into the centuries. Learn the history of the dish.


  • 13 oz 360 g pasta (best if spaghetti or bucatini)
  • 1/2 Lb 225 g sardines deboned, fresh or canned
  • 2 anchovies in oil
  • ½ white onion medium
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp raisin
  • 4 tbsp breadcrumbs or Panko
  • 2 tbsp wild fennel (minced (alternatively, ½ tsp fennel tops))
  • 2 pinches saffron threads (optional)
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • to taste table salt
  • 4.5 tbsp cooking salt



  1. First, soak the raisin into a bowl full of warm water. After that, soak the saffron in another little cup along with 2 tbsp of water.


  1. The tradition wants wild fennel, very easy to find in Sicily. But, if you are not so lucky to have wild fennel to hand, use the greenest and most tender parts of fennel tops. Bring to boil a pot big enough to cook the pasta full of water. Now, mince the tops of fennel roughly along with the leaves. Finally, poach them 1 minute, raise and pour into a bowl full of iced water to preserve the color and stop the cooking. Save the water flavored with fennel.


  1. Although this sardines pasta is also delicious prepared with canned sardines, fresh fish is traditionally the best option. If you opt for fresh sardines, rinse them thoroughly and eliminate the scales rubbing the body under running water. Then, open the stomach with your thumb and discard the offal. Finally, pull firmly and gently the head and separate the meat from the backbone. Rinse the fish fillets again, dry them, and place in the fridge until ready to cook.


  1. Place a little pan over medium heat and saute the pine nuts until golden, then pour them into a cup.
  2. Now, peel and mince the onion finely. After that, pour the onion in a pan and sautè over medium heat along with 3 tbsp of olive oil until smooth and translucent. Rinse the raisin and add into the pan along with the pine nuts and the anchovies, and the minced fennel. Cook 5 minutes more, then add the sardine fillets. Sautè 3-4 minutes stirring until the fish starts to fall apart. Do not overcook the fish. Finally, add salt as needed and another splash of olive oil.


  1. Toast the breadcrumbs or Panko in a little pan until golden, then pour into a bowl.
  2. Cook the pasta in the same water used to poach the fennel, along with 4.5 tbsp of coarse salt. Raise the pasta “al dente” and toss it with the sardines sauce. Complete with toasted breadcrumbs and black pepper: serve immediately.
Scroll To Top