Pasta con le Sarde (Sardine Pasta) Recipe

A simple and rustic pasta starring the smallest (and most flavorful) fish in the sea.
Photo by Farideh Sadeghin

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4-6


2 sachets|2 teaspoons safflower or saffron pistils 
2 ounces|57 grams raisins
¼ cup|40 grams plain bread crumbs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
12 ounces|345 grams pasta, preferably busiate trapanesi
3 tablespoons|45 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 anchovies in salt, finely chopped
7 ounces|200 grams wild fennel, finely chopped 
2 ounces|60 grams toasted pine nuts
10.6 ounces|300 grams (about 8) fresh sardines, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces 


  1. Soak the saffron in 2 spoonfuls of warm water overnight. The next day, discard the pistils and save the water.
  2. In a small bowl, soak the raisins in cold water for 2 hours. Strain and reserve. 
  3. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, 11 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup|250 ml pasta water. 
  4. In a large skillet over medium and starting with a cold pan, toast the bread crumbs until golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside. 
  5. Heat the oil in the skillet over medium. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute, then add the anchovies and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook until the anchovies have dissolved and broken down, 2 to 3 minutes. 
  6. Stir in the reserved raisins, the fennel, and pine nuts and cook until the fennel is soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the sardines and cook until cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes, (they do not need to dissolve as the anchovies did). Toss in the pasta along with a ladleful of reserved pasta water. Add the saffron water, tossing to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately topped with the breadcrumbs (they were known as “the cheese of the poor”). 

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