Pasta with sardines
Pasta & Rice Special

Pasta with Sardines and wild Fennel

Pasta with Sardines is a typical poor dish of Sicilian cuisine and comes from the combination of a few simple ingredients: sardines, raisins, pine nuts, and wild fennel.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that as an Amazon Associate I receive a profit from eligible purchases. There is no additional cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Behind this simplicity lies a crazy symphony of flavors and aromas: from the flavor of the sardines, we get to the fresh and aromatic taste of the fennel, very intense.

Origins of the recipe

In Sicilian dialect, Pasta with Sardines and wild Fennel is called “Pasta chi sardi“, which, if I pronounce it, immediately reminds me of the old lady I met in Taormina, where I was initiated to the pasta with sardines and wild fennel, years ago.

Fresh sardines

The peculiarity of this recipe is that – in Italy – fishermen are allowed to catch sardines only between March and September. Moreover, just in this same period, wild fennel grows spontaneously and can be yield.

A legend says that the recipe for Pasta with Sardines in Palermitan style was born to hide the “bad” smell of sardines with the intense scent of wild fennel. who knows if it’s true?

In Sicily, there are several variations of Pasta with Sardines.

For example around Catania’s area it’s used (as in my recipe) to sprinkle the dish with crispy breadcrumbs, at the end, while for the Palermo’s area version, saffron must be added.

How to clean sardines quickly and successfully

Here are my tricks to clean sardines properly. First, put sardines into a strainer to facilitate cleaning and run the tap water slowly. Then, remove the fish head, and pulling gently with your fingers, you will also take away part of the bowels. At this point, help yourself with your thumbs to extract the remaining bowels, pressing on the inside of the sardine. Finally, open the sardines body by sliding a finger to the tail and detach it. Lastly, export the fishbone, being careful not to break the fish and rinse underwater.

As for the type of pasta you are free to choose Bucatini, Spaghetti or Macaroni pasta, but it must be durum wheat pasta.

Yield: 4 servings

Pasta with Sardines

Pasta with sardines
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes


  • 400 g spaghetti
  • 400 g fresh sardines
  • 1 onion
  • 40 g raisins
  • 30 g pine nuts
  • 5 bunches of wild fennel
  • 1 salted anchovy
  • 7 extra virgin olive oil sp
  • salt and pepper
  • bread crumbs


Start by putting the raisins in half a glass of water to let
it soften.

Wash the sprigs of wild fennel, and remove the hardest part. Boil the wild fennel in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Then drain and chop them finely.

Keep the cooking water aside (we will cook the pasta inside).

Wash the sardines well, open with the booklet and remove the bone and head.

In a non-stick pan with 5 tablespoons of oil, first melt the anchovy for 1 minute, then chop the onion and pour it into the pan adding 8 tablespoons of fennel water.

Cook the onion for about 5 then add the raisins drained from the water. Place the sardines into the pan. After a further 5 minutes add the pine nuts and the boiled wild fennel. Add salt and pepper to taste, put on a lid and cook over low heat, stirring, for another 10 minutes (15 minutes if your sardines are large in size).

Bring the water in which you cooked the wild fennel to boil again, when it boils pour 1 tablespoon of salt and cook pasta.

At 3/4 of the pasta cooking time, drain pasta directly into the pan and sauté adding, if it becomes too dry, 2 or 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water.

Leave to rest for a few minutes, put in a serving dish and
if you like, sprinkle everything with a little breadcrumbs toasted with oil and anchovy.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 645Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 28gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 247mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 3gSugar: 10gProtein: 32g

As you may have understood, I am literally in love with Sicilian cuisine! The flavors and aromas are so authentic and make you smell hungry even before the palate! If you want to try other typical dishes of this incredible Italian region, try my Maccheroni alla Norma.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that as an Amazon Associate I receive a profit from eligible purchases. There is no additional cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info.

1 Comment

  1. […] #17 Pasta with Sardines and wild Fennel […]

Leave a Replay!