Life Eat & Drink Moorish pasta with fresh sardines recipe

Moorish pasta with fresh sardines recipe

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For many Sicilians, this is the island’s ‘signature’ pasta dish, full of typical Moorish flavours.


600g fresh sardines
2 tablespoons salt
2 big bunches wild fennel
150ml virgin olive oil
1 large spanish onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
5 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
50g currants
50g pine nuts, toasted
100g fresh breadcrumbs
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 handful mint, chopped
1 handful marjoram, chopped
1/2 teaspoon saffron powder
salt and pepper
500g strozzapreti or bucatini


Scrape away the scales from the sardines. Pull the heads away from the bodies – the backbones will naturally come away too. Your fishmonger will do this for you if you prefer. Dry the sardines well on kitchen paper.
Add the salt to a large saucepan of water and bring to the boil. Drop in the fennel and simmer for 5 minutes. Lift it out of the water and chop finely. Reserve the water for cooking the pasta. To make the sauce, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Stir in the spices and cook for a few more minutes. Add the anchovies, currants, pine nuts and half the sardines. Cook for around 5 minutes, stirring and breaking up the sardines with a fork.
Add the breadcrumbs, chopped fennel, herbs and saffron to the pan with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste and cook for a further 1–2 minutes.
Boil the pasta in the reserved fennel water until it is cooked al dente.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a separate frying pan and quickly fry the remaining sardines until golden.
Drain the pasta and tip half into a warm serving bowl. Stir in the rest of the olive oil and half of the sauce. Top with the remaining sauce and the fried sardines and toss together at the table.

This recipe appears courtesy of

Recipe from Spring in Sicily by Manuela Darling-Gansser.


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