Pasta con le sarde (Pasta in sardine sauce)
- 1 hour 45 minutes
- (4 serves)
- 400 gr (13 1/3 oz) bucatini
- About 600 gr (1 lb 3 oz) very fresh sardines
- 500 gr (1 lb) wild fennel
- 1 heaped tablespoon small, dark seeded raisins
- 1 heaped teaspoon pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon almonds
- 5 fillets anchovies in oil
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 1 packet saffron
Remove the heads and innards from the sardines, split open and remove the central spines. Remove the skins (if the fish is very fresh this will be easy), rinse quickly and dry. Blanch the almonds in boiling water for a few minutes then drain and peel. Toast them in a small pan without any oil, stirring continuously. When they have cooled mince them very fine. Soak the raisins in warm water.
Boil the fennel leaves in plenty of salted water in the pot for the pasta for 15 to 20 minutes until soft. When they are done, remove with a skimmer and drain. Keep the cooking water, which will serve for the pasta. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the finely minced onion. As it cooks finely chop the fennel bulbs after removing their hard bottom parts.
When the onion begins to color add the fennel and continue cooking over high heat for a few minutes. Add the anchovies and mash with a fork. Mix well and then add the pine nuts and drained and squeezed raisins. Now add the sardines (leaving aside 6) and mix well, keeping heat high. C
ook for seven or eight minutes, stirring often so the fish turns to pulp and blends with the other ingredients. Coarsely chop the boiled fennel leaves and add to the sauce when the sardines are completely cooked. Salt to taste and finally add the saffron dissolved in a ladle of cooking water. After another two or three minutes over high heat the sauce will be ready. It should be abundant and not too dry.
Cook the bucatini in the fennel-leaf water and at the same time, in a non-stick pan with a little oil, heat the six remaining filleted sardines, turning several times. Drain the bucatini very al dente, add to the sauce and mix constantly for two or three minutes. Pour into a baking dish, sprinkle with the minced almonds, cover with the whole sardines and, before serving, bake in a preheated oven for five or six minutes.