Offering the fresh and savory flavors bucatini of southern Italy, pasta with sardines is a traditional dish in Sicily. Bucatini, a long, hollow pasta, perfectly captures the simple sauce recipe, perfectly balanced with sardines, wild fennel and other herbs. Make this sunny recipe to transport your kitchen to the islands of Sicily! How to prepare Con le Sarde pasta (Sicilian pasta with sardines). Why does it work?
- Soaking raisins and saffron in heated wine hydrates and adds volume to the raisins.
- Chopped fennel bulbs, fennel leaves and fennel seeds add layers of fennel flavor (a good substitute for the intense wild fennel used in Italy).
- Seasoned breadcrumbs are a great substitute for shredded cheese.
Fusion food comes in many forms. A common example is when the chef pulls some from the cooking column A and some from the cooking column B, then mixes them together. The chef hopes this new creation will be the next Cronut, but usually what you end up with is Yang's next Egg Stew (don't you dare steal this, this one is totally mine). Another type of integration takes place in a more organic way, as foods, techniques and ingredients are mixed over time. This mixing could be the result of two cultures being very close to each other, or due to the spread of food along extensive trade routes, or due to violence and conquest. Often, all these forces are present at the same time. Tested by time and generations of cooks, this form of fusion is almost always far more successful than the improvised creations of those trying to do something "different". One of the great examples of this type of historical combination is the Italian dish known as pasta col sard - pasta with sardines - which perfectly combines Italian and Arabic cuisine. While there are various theories about its origins, it is most likely a by-product of Islamic rule in southern Italy dating back to the 10th century. Pasta cole sard is a Sicilian dish, specifically from the city of Palermo, and is like almost no other pasta in the world. Italian canon. On paper, it seems like a no-brainer, something I didn't even realize until I started writing this. I found myself eating, so I never thought about what it would be like for someone who has never inhaled a plate and then taken a bite. It's super delicious for me. There are many different types of col sard pasta, but they all consist of an unlikely combination of sweet and savory flavors: sweet fried onions, aromatic fennel and saffron, plump raisins, roasted pine nuts, salted anchovies and chunks of fresh sardine oil. In addition to pasta, of course (usually bucatini, but spaghetti is also a great option). Pasta, sardines, fennel and anchovies are Italian staples, and the inclusion of raisins, saffron and pine nuts is a classic example of Arabic culinary influence. One fish, two fish: using sardines and anchovies As the name suggests, macaroni col sard is macaroni with... sardines. An important detail, however, is that sardines are not the only fish commonly found in coule sard pasta. Anchovies also play an important role, enhancing the overall flavor of the sauce and enhancing its full-bodied nature. However, sardines are not gentle fish. They have dark, oily flesh that is rich and undeniably fishy. Anchovies are similar, just saltier and buttery. The key with both is making sure they are high quality, because there are good, smelly fish, and there are bad, smelly fish. For sardines, good means fresh fish that smells fresh from the ocean. That doesn't mean fish that smell like they've been sitting in the sun for the last six hours. (Read all about cleaning and filleting fresh whole sardines with step-by-step photos.) Some sardine pasta shortcut recipes call for canned sardines, which are arguably easier to find and, I suspect, may work well enough. But you're missing out on a lot going this route, and I say this as a canned sardine lover. The problem with them in this dish is that they are already well cooked in the can, which makes the meat dry and dense. Put it in a pan and cook it like a sauce and you will only make the problem worse. Otherwise, they will fall apart, depriving you of the soft and tender pieces of sardines, the best versions of this dish. For anchovies, you want high-quality fillets packed in oil. If you'd like, you can follow my instructions for oil-packing your own salted anchovies, a worthwhile project if you eat a lot of them (they do very well this way, much better than most anchovy products, you can eat a lot of them ). Just for reference, if you've ever had a whole anchovy fillet in, say, a regular pizza pie, and found it horribly salty and weirdly hairy, it was a bad anchovy. The good ones are also salty, but not scary, and have a smooth, firm texture that doesn't resemble a furry caterpillar. Whether you make your own or buy them pre-packaged in oil, they are worth seeking out. How to use cultivated fennel instead of wild fennel In Italy, cole sard pasta is made with wild fennel that grows by the roadside. It does not have large bulbs like our cultivated fennel. Instead, it has thick leaves that have a very strong fennel smell enhanced by a menthol-like kick. It is also not as delicate and needs more cooking time to soften. In many recipes, you will see a blanching step where the fennel leaves are boiled for a few minutes until they soften. The cooking water, now infused with fennel flavor, is later used to boil the noodles, imbuing each noodle with a burst of fennel. Then the cooked leaves are cut and added to the sauce. If you live where wild fennel grows, this is the best way to do it. If you don't, overgrown fennel should do. Fortunately, there are ways to do that. For starters, you'll want to use the fennel bulb that grows along with the leaves. I cut the onion and added it to the pan with the onion and fried it until they are soft and tender. This creates a nice base layer of fennel flavor that spreads throughout the dish. Its delicate leaves are best used as a fresh herb, especially since most fennel bulbs are grown with not all the leaves still attached, leaving you with only a few to play with. Some people—usually chefs—put fennel pollen on their plate, which has a stronger flavor than wild fennel, which can be part of the difference. Fennel pollen can be expensive, and unlike a restaurant, it's not something that's easy to use at home. Instead, I enhance the fennel flavor with toasted fennel seeds, which I mix in with the breadcrumbs that garnish the noodles.
- Save the (bread) crumbs for last
You must have heard the rule that says never mix fish and cheese. This isn't a rule of thumb, but this is one pasta where you'll want to skip the parmesan. Instead, it's the breadcrumbs that help absorb the oily sauce and add the perfect contrasting texture to the plain noodles. Well seasoned with breadcrumbs, fennel seeds, salt and pepper, they play a role not quite dissimilar to a shower of grated cheese, but they do so without introducing the cheesy flavor. It's a trick that can be used to good effect on many dishes—not just fish-based ones—where we tend to put reflective layers of grated cheese.
- Pasta Con le Sarde: step by step
Step 1: Infused raisins and saffron I don't like baked foods with raisins that are completely dry and wilted. I like them full body. Then I start by soaking the raisins in hot white wine with saffron. This gives the raisins a chance to soften and draws the saffron flavor into the wine, so it's well extracted before going into the sauce at the end. Step 2: Make seasoned bread flour Then I prepare the breadcrumbs, which goes on the plate at the end, but it must be prepared in time. I'm partial to panko, even in an Italian dish like this, because it has a great lightness and crunch without being crumbly. If the panko is too large, crumble it into smaller pieces in your hands. Fry breadcrumbs in olive oil with ground fennel seeds, then season well with salt and pepper. Step 3: Cook aromatics and anchovies To make the sauce, the first step is to cook the onion and fennel in olive oil until sweet and soft. When the vegetables are close to this stage, add the anchovy fillets and fry until they dissolve in the oil. Step 4: Add raisins, saffron, wine, pine nuts and sardines At this stage, some golden material should stick to the bottom of the pan. I add wine, raisins and saffron to prevent browning and kill all that flavor, then reduce until the wine is almost completely evaporated. Finally, pine nuts and roasted sardines. Let it cook just until the sardines are cooked. Step 5: Finish with batter and batter water While all this is going on, you are cooking the pasta. Once al dente, transfer it to the pan, along with the sauce, along with a quarter cup or so of the pasta cooking water. After a short tossing and tossing, the pasta water emulsifies with the sauce and coats each pasta. If the sauce gets too dry at any point, just stir in another quarter cup of pasta water. Step 6: Serve I always toss the noodles with a last generous drizzle of olive oil, just for sex, then throw in a small handful of seasoned breadcrumbs and mix them in for a very, very light coating. Strings are created. Onto the plates, the dough goes, topped with a very generous amount of breadcrumbs (and sometimes a little extra olive oil - there's never a limit) and fennel leaves. The flavors are universal, but you'll only notice if you think about it for a moment. It's usually a good thing to worry about.