Pasta con le Sarde (with Sardines)

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by Cat, June 2010 ((Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also 1. Sardines (About); 2. Marinated Sardines

Includes: 1. Gay’s Pasta with Sardines; 2. Pasta con le Sarde

Sardines are becoming popular, primarily because they are a fish relatively free from water contaminants like mercury, are still found in abundance, and are an excellent source of Omega-3 fats. They also are an excellent source of vitamins B12, B3, and vitamin D; minerals selenium, phosphorus and calcium, and are packed with protein. (2)

If you cannot obtain fresh sardines, choose those canned in olive oil rather than soybean oil, and store in a cool cupboard away from heat sources. Turn the can once in awhile to ensure all parts of the sardines are exposed to the oil. (2)

Gay’s Pasta with Sardines

My friend Gay passed on several sardine recipes to me, including this one of her own invention (with a minor modification by me concerning the pine nuts).

Sauté canned sardines in a little olive oil with capers, garlic, Crispy Pine Nuts, thyme and a little lemon zest and juice. Serve with linguini or spaghetti.

Pasta con le Sarde

This is one of the recipes my friend Gay shared with me. She found it in the New York Times’ Dining & Wine Recipes, March 30, 2008 (1), but the recipe was originally published with FOOD: THE WAY WE EAT; Just Grate, By Robert Trachtenberg, March 30, 2008; Adapted from Gusto in Manhattan. In turn I have made some modifications according to my dietary concerns.

Serves 4


  • ½ cup currants (dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine such as vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound fennel, bulb finely chopped, fronds chopped and reserved
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • Unrefined sea salt
  • 2 pounds fresh sardines (trimmed and deboned, yielding 1 1/4 pounds) or 1 pound canned
  • 1 pound bucatini pasta (thick, spaghetti-like pasta but hollow; spaghetti is a good substitute)
  • ½ cup Crispy Pine nuts or toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Pasta pot or Saucier
  2. Saute pan
  3. Cast iron skillet
  4. bowls (for prepped veggies, fennel fronds, fennel seeds, bread crumbs)



  1. Day before: prepare Crispy Pine nuts; dry bread and crumble or grind into crumbs.
  2. Same day: Bring a large pot of water to a boil (for cooking the pasta).
  3. Chop onion; mince garlic; finely chop the fennel bulb. Set these aside in a bowl.
  4. Crush fennel seeds in a mortar with pestle and add to veggies.
  5. Chop the fennel fronds and reserve separately.
  6. Trim and debone the sardines (see Sardines (About))

Sardines and sauce:

  1. Combine the currants, red-pepper flakes and wine in a bowl; set aside.
  2. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until golden brown. Transfer to a bowl, stir in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and set aside.
  3. In a heavy skillet, heat 1/2 cup olive oil over medium-low heat. When hot, add the onion, garlic, fennel bulb and fennel seeds. Season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender, about 25 minutes.
  4. Add the wine mixture and the sardines, breaking them into pieces with a fork. Bring to a boil and gently simmer for 10 minutes.


  1. Add enough salt to the boiling water so that it tastes salty. Boil the bucatini until al dente, 6 to 8 minutes; strain.
  2. Return the pasta to the pasta pot and set over low heat. Fold in the fennel-sardine mixture. Toss in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil. Add 3/4 of the fennel fronds,  pine nuts, rinsed capers and a quarter of the bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


  1. Divide pasta among plates and sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs and fennel fronds over each. Serve immediately.


  1. New York Times recipe:
  2. Worlds Healthiest Foods on sardines:

About Cat

See my 'About' page
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