Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pasta with Sardines and Fennel

Pasta with Sardines and Fennel on white plate with napkin and fork in background

This Variation on Sicilian-Style Pasta Sports a Tangy Tomato Sauce

When was the last time you used sardines in a dish?  For a lot of us, the answer may be “never.”

Sardines don’t get much respect in the US.  Which is too bad, because they’re inexpensive, abundant, and widely available (although most often in canned form).  But many people shy away from them because of their distinct “fishy” flavor.

If that’s you, don’t worry.  Sardines have been eaten in Mediterranean countries for thousands of years, so cooks there have figured out how to handle these little beauties.  No place is more Mediterranean than Sicily — and one of its signature dishes is pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines).  In Sicily, cooks usually combine the pasta with fennel, raisins, and saffron, and these ingredients help mellow the flavor of the sardines.

March 19th (Tuesday) is Saint Joseph’s Day, a widely celebrated saint’s day around the world.  Many people consider St. Joseph to be the patron saint of Sicily (according to legend, prayers to St. Joseph helped prevent a famine there during the Middle Ages). Because St. Joseph’s Day falls during Lent, the festive foods are meatless.

What better way to celebrate one of Sicily’s special holidays than by making their signature (meatless) dish? You’ve heard the phrase (made memorable in Alka-Seltzer ads), “try it, you’ll like it.” When it comes to this dish, it’s true.


Pasta with Sardines and Fennel on white plate with napkin and fork in background

Recipe:  Pasta with Sardines and Fennel

Traditionally, pasta con le sarde is made with fresh sardines and the fronds (not the bulb) from wild fennel.  Raisins, pine nuts, saffron, and often anchovies are added to the dish, and it’s garnished with bread crumbs (to represent sawdust — St. Joseph was thought to be a carpenter).  Some versions include tomato, though most don’t.  The traditional pasta used in this dish is a thick hollow spaghetti (in Sicily this is called u pirciatu, which is hard to find in the US; bucatini or perciatelli are basically the same thing, and easier to find).  Regular spaghetti is a typical substitute.

My recipe isn’t traditional, for several reasons.  First, in the US it’s difficult to find fresh sardines or wild fennel fronds (although wild fennel grows in California, and fresh sardines are becoming more abundant at fish mongers).  I use the fronds and bulb of domestic fennel, and canned sardines.  Second, while the traditional recipe is good, I think it’s even better with more tomato added — enough to create a tomato-based sauce.  This requires a more substantial pasta shape, IMO, so I substitute a tubular pasta like penne.  Last, I omit the anchovies and pine nuts from my recipe.  They get a bit lost with the inclusion of tomato, so I don’t bother with them.

My recipe is derived from various sources, but I leaned most heavily on Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. If you prefer a tomato-less recipe, I suggest checking out one that Paula Wolfert published in the December 5, 1985 New York Times Magazine (her recipe includes just a bit of sun-dried tomato, but that’s optional).

This recipe serves 4 to 5. Active time is about 15 minutes, total time 30 minutes (or more, if you want to cook the tomato sauce longer). Leftovers keep for a day or two in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Ingredients
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ~2 cups total of fennel fronds, thin fennel stalks, and chopped fennel bulb (about 1 large fennel bulb with plenty of leafy fronds; exact quantity not important)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons pure olive oil (the cheap stuff)
  • salt to taste (you’ll use more salt for the pasta water; see below)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • big pinch of crumbled saffron threads dissolved in ½ cup lukewarm water (about ½ teaspoon; you can substitute powdered saffron, but the flavor isn’t nearly as good)
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomato
  • 1 pound tubular pasta or spaghetti
  • salt for pasta water
  • ~4 to 8 ounces canned sardines packed in olive oil (1 or 2 cans; start with 1 can if you think you’re sardine-averse, although 2 cans would be the typical amount)
  •  ~ ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted for garnish (see Notes for how to make)
Procedure
  1. Place the raisins in a small saucepan with enough water to just cover.  Bring to a light boil, then remove from heat and allow to steep (this freshens and plumps them).
  2. Rinse the fennel and remove the stalks and green tops.  Roughly chop the green fuzzy fronds and the smaller stalks; discard the big, woody stalks.  Set aside.  Using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, slice off the root end of the bulb.  Cut or peel off the outer part of the bulb if it’s tough.  Cut the fennel bulb into quarters lengthwise, and then cut into thin slices across the width.  You want about 2 cups of fennel total (including fronds, smaller stalks, and bulb), but as long as you’re in the ball park, the exact quantity isn’t important.  You may want to reserve some fennel fronds as an additional garnish.
  3. Peel the onion and cut into dice of ½ inch or so.
  4. Peel the garlic and slice thinly or mince finely.
  5. Place a medium-sized skillet (or sauce pan large enough to sauté the onion and fennel) on medium heat on the stove top.  Heat for two minutes or so, then add the oil.  When the oil is hot (it will shimmer), add the fennel bulb (but not the chopped green tops and smaller stalks), onion, and garlic.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Sauté until the onion begins to soften, but doesn’t brown (about 5 minutes or so).
  6. While the fennel-and-onion mix is cooking, take a big pinch of saffron threads, crumble, and add to ½ cup lukewarm water.
  7. When the onion is softened, add the chopped fennel greens and smaller stalks, and sauté for a minute or so.  Add the red pepper flakes, the raisins (include the water), and the saffron threads (with water).  Add the tomato.  Bring to a simmer, taste and adjust seasoning, and let simmer for at least 20 minutes (longer if you prefer). 
  8. About 15 minutes before you want to serve the pasta, bring a 4-quart pot of water to boil.  Add a tablespoon of salt and the pasta.  Cook until the pasta is al dente.  Cooking time varies depending on shape; look at the package directions, and start testing 3 or 4 minutes before they suggest (their cooking times are frequently off by a wide margin).
  9. A minute or two before the pasta is ready, open the sardine can(s) and drain the oil.  Add the sardines to the pasta sauce, and stir to incorporate.  The more you stir, the more the sardines will break up and “dissolve” into the sauce.  You may want to reserve a sardine or two per serving to use as additional garnish.
  10. When the pasta is ready, remove a cup of water from the pot (you may need it to thin the sauce) and drain the pasta in a colander or strainer.  Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot, and (keeping it off the heat) add the sauce.  Stir to mix with the pasta; if it’s too thick for your liking, add a bit of the pasta cooking water.
  11. Serve with a garnish of breadcrumbs.  I like to add an additional garnish of some leafy green fennel fronds, and a sardine or two per serving.
Pasta with Sardines and Fennel on white plate, overhead view

Notes
  • To make bread crumbs, start with a couple slices of good quality bread (preferably a day old) and remove crust.  Cut into dice of about ½ inch, place in food processor or blender, and reduce to crumbs.  Spread on baking sheet.  Place sheet in oven and set temperature at 250 degrees F (you can preheat the oven if you like, but precision isn’t necessary here).  Set the timer for 14 minutes.  At the 14-minute mark, check the consistency of the bread crumbs; if you want them a bit more toasted, put them back in the oven until done; otherwise, remove.  Add a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil, salt to taste, and toss.  Set aside until ready to use.
  • I prefer to make crumbs from homemade bread.  If you don’t have a favorite recipe, you might try our No-Knead Homemade Bread
  • If you want to add pine nuts (or walnuts) to this recipe, add ½ cup or so in Step 7, along with the raisins. 
  • If you want to add anchovies, add a can (2 ounces) to the fennel and onions at the beginning of Step 7, before you add the other ingredients. Sauté for a minute or two until the anchovies dissolve into the fennel and onion mixture, then add the other ingredients. 
  • I think olive oil-packed sardines work best in this dish. Try to find sardines that are sourced from the Pacific Ocean. They are abundant and are being fished in a sustainable fashion. By contrast, according to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, Atlantic sardines (which are caught in the Mediterranean) are being depleted. 
  • The Monterrey Bay Aquarium is located on Cannery Row — so called after a popular 1945 John Steinbeck novel of the same name that was set there. The sardine canneries that once thrived in the area went out of business several decades ago as a result of overfishing in the bay.

Pasta with Sardines and Fennel on white plate with napkin and fork in background

More About St. Joseph and His Feast Day

St. Joseph was the spouse of Mary, mother of Jesus.  In the gospels, he is described as being a τέκτων (tekton) — a Koine Greek word that is often translated as carpenter. (Koine, the common form of written and spoken Greek used 2,000 years ago, was the language in which the New Testament was written). But “tekton” is actually a fairly general word that means something closer to “artisan” or even “builder.”

Whatever Joseph’s actual profession, most people think of him as a carpenter. And he is a particularly popular object of prayers among Catholic carpenters, craftspeople, engineers, and working people in general — as well as travelers, expectant mothers, and house sellers. That last one might seem surprising. But some people swear that if you bury a small statue of St. Joseph upside down in the front yard of a house that you have on the market, it will sell quickly and at a good price.

St. Joseph’s Feast day (La Festa di San Giuseppe in Italian) is celebrated by Catholics around the world, not just in Sicily. St. Joseph is also the patron saint of Poland and Canada. And his feast day is observed as Father’s Day in some Catholic countries (specifically Spain, Portugal, and Italy). In the US, St. Joseph’s day is popular in New Orleans (a major entry port for Sicilian immigrants in the 19th century), and celebrations are also common in other US cities with large Italian populations. Because the date falls right after St. Patrick’s Day — when wearing green is a popular custom — some people celebrate St. Joseph’s Day by wearing red (another tradition associated with the day). St. Joseph’s Day is also the date when swallows are traditionally believed to return to Mission San Juan Capistrano in Southern California, after having flown south for the winter.

As noted above, because St. Joseph’s Day falls during Lent, it’s usually a meatless celebration. Many dishes are traditionally garnished with breadcrumbs (as is our Pasta with Sardines and Fennel) to represent carpenter’s sawdust. Zeppole are also popular menu items. These are deep-fried dough balls about 4 inches in diameter (essentially, they are doughnuts or fritters). They’re usually topped with powdered sugar, and are sometimes filled with a cannoli-type pastry cream or other sweet stuff (such as custard or jelly).

So now you know what you’ll be eating on March 19th: Pasta with Sardines and Fennel, followed by a delightful dessert of Zeppole (or at least a doughnut). And if your house is on the market, you might want to consider burying a statue of St. Joseph in the front yard. You never know.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Pasta with Shrimp and Fennel
Fennel Soup with Shrimp and Beans
Shaved Fennel Salad
Braised Fennel
Fennel and Tomato Gratin
Salade Niçoise
Pasta Puttanesca
Tuna Pasta Salad
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Poached Scallops
Scallops on Artichoke Scoops

94 comments:

  1. What a great yet simple recipe! In the midsts of my busy exam schedule...

    The story about St Joseph is so touching... I have an East-Orthodox (Greek) religious background and we share all saints with the Catholic tradition. St Joseph has been a big day for me and my family and knowing what to cook feel so good.

    Have a good weekend and St Patrick Day!!

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    1. Hi La Torontoise, this really is quite simple, with huge flavor! I hope you have a swell St. Pat's too! Thanks for the comment.

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  2. P.S. The last time I got sardines (fresh from the market) was in the summer, in the South of France. I live and work in North Europe and indeed, sardines do not receive that much respect as in the South (for example, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy). While travelling there, I'm getting the feeling of being in the kingdom of the sardines:-) and you not only fel it, you experience it real-life:-))
    Just thinking of it makes me feel the pleasure of the next trip:-)

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    1. Hi La Torontoise, I've never had fresh sardines, although I've very occasionally seen them at a fish monger (this was on the east coast of the US; I've not seen them in the Midwest). Thanks for the info about sardines not being that popular in Northern Europe - sounds like it's much like most of the US in that regard.

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  3. I grew up eating sardines on pizza. My mom loves them and for whatever reason we had them with pizza. To this day my mom still eats them right from the can. I put them in salads. They're so good for the body.

    Wonderful recipe. I will have to make this for my mom.

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    1. Hi Vicki, I can see sardines on pizza - kind of like anchovies. Since you like sardines, this dish is a natural for you! And you're right that sardines really do offer some health benefits. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. You're right about cooking with sardines, and yet you've done a good job of selling me on this recipe. And sometimes playing with tradition can provide an awesome new recipe!

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    1. Hi Beth, it's a fun dish. Not to everyone's taste, but I'll bet a lot of people will be surprised at how much they like it. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Being vegetarian I have never tried this but it certainly lives up to its fame :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, not your kind of dish, I know! Maybe if I had added chocolate? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I do love the idea of a good *tangy* tomato sauce, even if I don't eat sardines myself. And again with the fennel--loving it, John!

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    1. Hi Ala, I've been kinda fennel crazed, haven't I? ;-) This is a nice sauce - I think you could easily omit the sardines and still enjoy it. Thanks for the comment.

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  7. I am not a fan of the canned Sardines but I love the fresh ones that occasionally are available at the market! When they are done right, they really are delicious!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, I agree with you - fresh sardines, at least to me, have better flavor. Although in this recipe the canned ones are quite decent. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. I haven't eaten sardines since my grandmother was alive. She would cook it on Fridays with sauce! She was originally from Naples Italy. This is such a different recipe and looks delicious! I absolutely love all the fennel!

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    1. Hi Judy, I'll bet your grandmother's recipe was sensational! Sardines and fennel really combine well together - worth trying, IMO. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. To be honest, I have only eat sardines from cans and never fresh. They don't seems to be easily available being fresh...

    This pasta with sardines looks great. Love the fact that this is a great down-to-earth dish :D

    Zoe

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    1. Hi Zoe, in much of the world fresh sardines are pretty hard to come by. And this is definitely a down-to-earth dish! A must-try if you're a sardine fan. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. I love fresh sardines. Luckily we have them in abundance in Portugal. Best months to have them: from May to August (though in September you might get good ones too). During popular festivities, mainly in those months, people love to go and have them with pieces of corn bread. Yum.

    Loved this idea of having them with pasta.

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    1. Hi Alex, I've had fresh sardines only a couple of times (that I can recall, at any rate) and IMO they're far better than the canned. Good to know their season! Thanks for your comment.

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  11. I love the colors in this dish, but I am not a big fan of sardines. I liked reading about St. Joesph, interesting.

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    1. Hi Dawn, I do know this post isn't going to be all that popular because sardines aren't, so I tried extra hard to make the dish look attractive! I'm glad you enjoyed the St. Joseph info - I knew some of that, but definitely needed to do a bit of research. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. What can I say? I am one of those "fishy" people, John. The pasta looks great and I love the history behind it. If you tell me it doesn't taste fishy then I will most definitely try it. I was staring at some sardine tins at the store the other day (don't ask me why) but maybe it was to prepare for this? Thanks John!

    Nazneen

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    1. Hi Nazneen, it does have a bit of a fishy taste, but not that much (nothing like the flavor of a sardine straight from the can). If you're concerned and want to try it, definitely try using only one can of sardines when you make the recipe - the sardine flavor will be quite mild (it's there, but IMO the other flavors virtually cancel out the "fishiness"). Then you can work up to two cans. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  13. I absolutely love the idea and the recipe! I would hold off until I had the chance to actually buy fresh sardines: mmhh about tinned ones, tho' I do use them occasionally on breakfast sandwiches!! [OK: N European - what would you expect : ) ?] And, my humble apologies, but I would never ever omit anchovies or pinenuts from almost any dish I cooked : ) ! Sacrilege, pure and simple :D !

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    1. Hi Eha, you're right about it being sacrilege not to include the pine nuts and anchovies! I probably should have put them in my final recipe (particularly since I have some nice salt-cured anchovies on hand at the moment), but odd as it sounds, their flavor isn't missed. (Not that it wouldn't be welcome; but there's already enough going on in this dish.) I do need to try this with fresh sardines. I have a great fish monger who sells retail, but also sells wholesale to most of the best restaurants in town - I'll bet he can special order me some. Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Mmm, love the tangle of salty and sweet, and briny and herbaceous. A perfect dish to dig into.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, perfect description of this dish! Salt is definitely the first taste, but the sweet (from the raisins) may actually dominate. Wonderful dish - I think you'd like it. Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Interesting flavour for pasta, never seen sardines used on them but dont get me wrong as they look so good, I bet they taste awesome as well

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    1. Hi Raymund, this definitely is a rather unusual dish - at least in much of the world. It's pretty good though, and if you like sardines, a thoroughly enjoyable dish. Thanks for the comment.

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  16. I used sardines with scrambled eggs, it was delicious! But your pasta looks amazing!

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    1. Hi Marta, I've never added sardines to scrambled eggs, but it's an interesting idea - the two flavors would work well together. Thanks for the comment.

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  17. That's a beautiful dish of food! I loved the suggestion of adding chocolate for Uru :)

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    1. Hi Maureen, it's really pretty! Maybe all of my recipes should have a chocolate option for Uru. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. I didn't know that st.josephs day was celebrated big in Sicily. But then he is an important saint all over europe. ha I never though of the breadcrumbs as saw dust, but since you mentioned it, it makes sense.

    Really no sardines in the US? Seriously? they don't know t=what they are missing out. I think so sardines have helped the European coastal areas to survive in history. Btw I am not sure if I had sardines before with pine nuts.

    In general a wonderful pasta dish, thank you very much for sharing your recipe! =)

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    1. Hi Helene, you can find fresh sardines in the US, particularly on the east and west coasts, but they're not common in most places. Or at least I've not seen them (perhaps I just haven't been to my fish mongers at the right time). I've had them fresh (in Morocco and Spain) and they're good - better than the canned IMO. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. I'm a new reader :) Hello...this pasta dish is awesome! I'm always looking for ways to incorporate sardines into our family meals, since it is considered a "safe" fish (low in mercury and other toxins) and it's rich in the good omega's (3's)! I will have to try this dish soon! Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. Hi Jen, welcome! And you're right about the low level of mercury and such in sardines - they're so small and low on the food chain they just don't have much, even if you eat a pound of them! Hope you enjoy this dish, and thanks for the comment.

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  20. Oh, and thanks for the little tidbit on St. Joseph's there. My husband works in a Catholic hospital named for - you guessed it - St. Joseph.

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    1. Hi Jen, I found that interesting, too. Always fun to learn new things!

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  21. I used to eat sardines a lot as a kid but for some reason I can't stomach them anymore! I can make this dish for my dad though, he is a huge fan of sardines.

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    1. Hi Natalie, sardines, particularly canned ones, do have a distinct flavor. Sorry you no longer like them, but it'd be a nice thing to make this for your dad! Thanks for the comment.

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  22. I grew up eating sardines on crackers with my dad. I haven't eaten them since my childhood, but recipes like this always remind me of my dad, long passed now. Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration to try something new. :)

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    1. Hi Judy, sardines and crackers (or toast) used to be a popular combo! I don't hear much about it anymore, though. Sounds like something I should try. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  23. What a spectacular dish! Love all the flavors playing together to create such a tasty entree. Of course, two of the hubby's most dreaded foods are fennel and sardines. I may have to drag him to Sicily to try this excellent pasta!

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    1. Hi Liz, I'll bet your husband would learn to appreciate the fennel in this dish because its flavor helps sweeten the sardines! He sounds like a candidate for fresh sardines - they still have quite a flavor, but it's much fresher and brighter. Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Love the sound of this dish but I must get over my fear of sardines. Everyone eats them except me. What would you suggest?

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    1. Hi Abbe, if you can find fresh sardines (probably difficult given where you live) that might be the best option. Otherwise you might look at the sardine selection in some Asian markets - they pack sardines in all sorts of interesting flavors (spicy tomato, for example). Good luck! And thanks for the comment.

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  25. I have to honestly say that I love everything about this pasta dish except for the sardines, and anchovies wouldn't work for me either. However, Bobby loves sardine and never gets them. I know this would be a great dish for our table, but I would have to just drizzle the sardine oil over his serving and top with the sardines. He would love it while I sit and enjoy my sardineless serving. :) Hope you and the Mrs had a great weekend!

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    1. Hi MJ, most people aren't going to like this dish - they just can't get over their initial dislike of sardines. And alas, I think most people do need to eat them several times before they begin to appreciate their flavor. Because you add the sardines at the end, it'd be easy enough to divide the pasta into two portions, and add sardines to his, and something else (some grilled shrimp?) to yours. Win-win! Thanks for the comment.

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  26. I have never heard of this Italian dish but I lived in the north and each region has their own very distinct cuisine. I do eat sardines sometimes because they are so full of goodness but they are strong and I am not sure about them on pasta. I would have to try it before passing judgement though.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, sardines are definitely strong, although it you like them, I believe you'd like this pasta - the combo of flavors work so well together. And Italy really is so regional - Sicily is almost a different country (and of course at one time was). Thanks for your comment.

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  27. You make a mean pasta dish, love this so much.

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    1. Hi Kim, it's definitely a good dish! Glad you like it. Thanks for the comment.

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  28. What a great post. I love sardines and we eat them them quite regularly. You are right it is difficult to get fresh sardines in the US. However, I know a seafood market in my neighborhood which carries fresh sardines (not every day). But they are selling out quick.

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    1. Hi Frank, you're lucky you can get the fresh! I should ask my fish monger whether they ever carry them. Thanks for the comment.

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  29. A mouthwatering dish! This combination is simply fabulous. Fennel and sardines par wonderfully well with penne.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, if you like sardines, it really is a nice combo of flavors! Thanks for the comment.

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  30. You're right about sardines, they wouldn't have crossed my mind until just now as I read your lovely post. If I make this pasta and close my eyes do you think I might somehow get transported to sunny Sicily?

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    1. Hi Chris, I'd love to be in sunny Sicily now! I'm so ready for spring. ;-) Alas, when I opened my eyes after eating this dish, we were getting snow flurries! So I guess the only way to get to Sicily is to buy a plane ticket. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  31. What were you doing in my spam folder?
    For the first time that I noticed, the Italian market had fresh sardines in their display last week. I hope they're frequent visitors because I'd love to give this dish a try with fresh sardines. And my family never cooked fennel so this dish would be a wealth of new flavors. It's a great recipe, John, and one I'm sure to make. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi John, a lot of people think anything to do with sardines is spam! It's great that your Italian market has sardines - I definitely need to find a source. They can be a pain to clean, but they're nicer than the canned, IMO. Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Your recipe is very timely. I was just reading an article on the health benefits of sardines, but had no idea how to cook them. I bet I could get the family to eat them with this tasty recipe.

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    1. Hi Kristi, sardines are incredibly healthy, but they do have a distinct flavor. But this recipe would be a nice intro to them. Thanks for the comment.

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  33. This is another incredible creative dish with fennel!
    Looks so tasty and brings the sunshine of Sicily to your table:)
    Love the story and history about it. Great post, thank you!

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    1. Hi Daniela, I've been kind of fennel crazed, I admit. ;-) But this is a really fun dish. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  34. I've never cooked sardines in pasta myself, but I recently has them at a restaurant and it was fantastic. Thanks for sharing the recipe so now I can try it at home. Looks great!

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    1. Hi Nancy, isn't this a nice dish? Sounds a bit strange to some, but worth giving it a try. Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Hi John, your pasta sure look inviting and yummy! I love the combination, it's sure look great.

    We Malaysian consume quite a lots of sardines. But we can't get sardines in olive oil. Here we have canned sardines in tomato sauce. It's very versatile, most people refer to use it for sandwiches or wrap in puff pastry and bake it. Or use it to cook curry sardines.

    Have a great week ahead.

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    1. Hi Amelia, I'd guess sardines in tomato would work, too. I really like the idea of curried sardines - I should try that some time! Thanks for the comment.

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  36. When I was a little girl I would occasionally split a can of sardines with my dad. I'm in no way a fish lover, but I did like these. It has been a long time since I've had a sardine, but would certainly love to get reacquainted with them in your dish. Lovely story and beautiful photographs. Thanks for such a nice comment on my guest post for Barb.

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    1. Hi Karen, welcome! I think a lot of people's parents used to eat sardines - I know they were much more commonly consumed when I was a kid than I think they are now. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  37. I like sardine, but my husband cannot stand anything that is fishy...and so nice combined with fennel...beautiful pictures John...very tempting.
    Hope you are having a fun week :)

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    1. Hi Juliana, even in this recipe sardines do have a somewhat fishy aftertaste - though the fennel and raisins help to cut it. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  38. Sardines are big in Turkey, we would fry them in big batches and my grandfather used to eat them like a candy, with bones and head and all.

    Nice to see a different recipe than what I am accustom to :) Thanks for the lively pictures:)

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    1. Hi Ilke, I've heard of people frying sardines like that, but have never seen it. Sounds like fun! Thanks for the comment.

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  39. Sardines are famous in southern parts of India, we add spices and fry them, they are delicious. The sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which makes it a good reason to incorporate in the diet. Coming to your recipe, I never thought of adding them to pasta. My usual seafood that goes into pasta is shrimp. Nice introduction to different flavors.

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    1. Hi Shibi, great to hear another way to prepare sardines! Shrimp are my usual go-to for adding seafood to pasta too, although it's always fun to mix it up. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  40. I don't know why a lot of people here don't like sardines, but my mom used to make me eat sardine dishes because they have bones that are soft and edible and have lots of calcium. She always said "It's good for you!" This pasta with sardine is great because my kids would love the pasta with anything! Looks delicious!

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    1. Hi Nami, I think a lot of people just don't like oily fish - probably because they haven't tasted it enough to appreciate its flavor. Too bad, because as you say, sardines are exceptionally good for you. Thanks for the comment.

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  41. I can't believe I don't know about Saint Joseph's Day. Thank you for sharing about this lovely day! I agree, sardines are not used enough in American dishes. The sardines sound wonderful in your pasta dish, your dish looks gorgeous! Take care, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, I find all of the saint days really interesting, even though the only one I celebrate is St. Patrick's. ;-) And sardines really are used so little - too bad, because they're really good for one. Thanks for the comment.

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  42. I must admit I've never used sardines in a recipe before but I do love eating a Filipino canned brand with tomato sauce with rice and soya sauce and its absolutely delicious. I should branch out and experiment a bit more :)

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    1. Hi Christine, there are a lot of interesting flavorings in canned sardines - Asian markets carry many more than the typical US supermarket. Thanks for the comment.

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  43. I agree with you 100 percent, John. Sardine is a food that doesn't get much of appreciation here in the US. Being born and raised in a third world country, I can really relate to sardines (and other delicious canned foods) being part of our diet. Great job on making sardines look like jewel on top of pasta. Nicely done on the presentation. Thank you, John!

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    1. Hi Ray, aren't sardines good stuff? Alas, I doubt if their bad rep is going to change anytime soon in the US. ;-( Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  44. I've been dipping my toe into using anchovies but I totally get it, sardines can be a "scary" ingredients especially when you've got a fish hating husband like I do. My mom and aunts would go crazy for this though. I love the idea of raisins as a counterpoint.

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    1. Hi Food Jaunts, scary is indeed a good word to describe the way many people view sardines. And although their flavor is good, it's way stronger than many people like, at least at first - it's one of those things some people need to taste several times before they begin to appreciate. So if someone doesn't like fish in general, they'll probably never like sardines, alas. Thanks for the comment.

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  45. Wow, this is packed with flavor, John! I love sardines and don't cook with them nearly often enough. Raisins and fennel sound like marvelous additions to the tomato sauce. Now I'm very hungry! Have a great weekend!

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    1. Hi Hannah, if you like sardines, this dish has your name on it! Really a wonderful combo of flavors - enjoy! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  46. When was the last time I had sardines in the dish? Two day ago, and then a day before then, and then... well, to make this list short, it's 2-3 times a week: sandwiches (oh, I love a sandwich with sardines!), pasta, potatoes baked with sardines (another favorite)... I could have sardines every day if I had a good source for sardines. I love your dish, and addition of raisins sounds interesting, I have to try that.

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    1. Hi Marina, you're proof that sardines are good stuff! Alas, most people don't know it yet. You'll like this dish, and the raisins provide a really interesting contrast. Thanks for the comment.

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  47. Lovely work! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday over at Carole's Chatter which is creating a collection of recipes using anchovies or sardines? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. Cheers

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    1. Hi Carole, thanks! I'll try to remember to check you out tomorrow. Thanks for dropping by.

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