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Catholic Recipe: Pasta with Sardines & Fennel


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 bulb fennel--trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced (2-1/2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • 1 can (28 ounces) no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 cans (3-3/4 ounces each) sardines, drained
  • 12 ounces linguine or fettuccine
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • Details

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 30 Minutes
  • Difficulty: • •
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: n/a
  • Origin: Italy

Also Called: Paste con sarde

The famous pasta con sarde (pasta with sardines), the pride of Palermo's kitchens, was often transformed into pasta che sardi a mari (pasta with sardines in the sea), which is where the sardines still were for those who couldn't afford them. The rich flavors of the remaining ingredients were used to fool the palate, especially wild fennel. The Friars of Saint Francis of Paola had their own tricks to wring blood out of a stone: their Paulota broth, distributed to beggars, relied on macaroni cooked in a pot in which fish, destined for more fortunate mouths, had been cooked. The number of "customers" determined the thickness of the sauce.


Although sardines are a superb source of omega-3 fatty acids, you could use tuna instead. Use 1-1/2 cans (6 ounces each) of well-drained tuna, separated into flakes.

1. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute until tender. Stir in fennel and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

2. Stir in tomatoes, raisins, salt, and fennel seeds, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes or until sauce is lightly thickened. Stir in sardines and cook 5 minutes longer or until well combined.

3. Meanwhile, in large pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Transfer pasta and sauce to large bowl. Add orange juice and toss well to coat.

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