I bear in mind one night time a well-known American artwork critic got here into Locanda to eat. This man seemed on the menu after which mentioned, “You recognize, I’ve simply come again from Sicily and I beloved the pasta they made with the sarde.” I went again into the kitchen and mentioned to Rino, my head chef, who’s from Sciacca, on the south coast of Sicily, “Now we have to prepare dinner this pasta for him.” We had some good sardines, lovely sultanas, and I had simply come again from Sicily myself, so I had introduced a number of the wild fennel that grows so freely.
We cooked the pasta for him, and each single 12 months since he has despatched me a card at Christmas, saying, “That pasta with the sarde was the very best I ever had.”
It is a dish that sums up Sicily for me: the Arab mixture of sultanas, nuts and saffron (I feel it wants heaps) reveals the historical past of the island, but the elements themselves have been indigenous there since classical occasions. In Palermo, they make the dish in the identical approach however pile the pasta into an ovenproof dish, with the breadcrumbs on prime, and bake it within the oven for 10 to fifteen minutes at round 150C fan/gasoline mark 3.
There may be one other model of the dish that’s typical of the opposite side of Sicilian cooking, which is all about making do with what you have got … it is named pasta con le sarde a mare, which implies “pasta with sardines which are within the sea” – in different phrases, that they had the pine nuts, sultanas, breadcrumbs and all the opposite elements to make the dish, however they didn’t have any sardines, so that they made it anyway, simply with out the fish!
In the event you can’t discover any wild fennel, use a teaspoon of fennel seeds as an alternative. Soak them, complete, in just a bit water – solely sufficient to cowl them – for a few hours, and add them as an alternative of the wild fennel.
salted anchovies 3, or 6 anchovy fillets in oil
further virgin olive oil 120ml
onion 1 medium, chopped
white wine 50ml
’strattu (Sicilian tomato paste) 2 tbsp or 1½ tbsp tomato puree
contemporary sardine fillets 8
pine nuts 30g
saffron a great pinch (about 20 threads)
wild fennel 3 sprigs, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, soaked in a bit of water
sea salt and freshly floor black pepper
pasta 200g, similar to bucatini
If utilizing salted anchovies, rinse and dry them. Run your thumb gently alongside the spine to launch it, and it is best to be capable of pull it out simply. If utilizing anchovies in oil, drain them.
Toast the breadcrumbs in a dry pan over a medium warmth, till they’re fairly a darkish golden brown. Take care to not burn them.
Warmth half the additional virgin olive oil in a pan and add the onion. Sauté till softened however not colored, then add the anchovy fillets, stirring them till they “soften”. Add the wine and bubble as much as let it evaporate, then add the ’strattu or puree and produce again to the boil, including simply sufficient water to present a sauce consistency. Add the sardine fillets, sultanas, pine nuts, saffron and chopped fennel or soaked seeds. Style and season if obligatory, stir gently, and prepare dinner for 10 minutes.
Deliver a pan of water to the boil, add salt, then put within the pasta and prepare dinner for a couple of minute lower than the time given on the packet, in order that it’s al dente. Drain, reserving a number of the cooking water.
Toss the pasta with the sardine sauce and the remainder of the olive oil, including a bit of of the pasta cooking water if essential to loosen the sauce, and sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs.
From Made in Sicily by Giorgio Locatelli (HarperCollins, £30)