Oy, the things I do for you. I endured Magnifica Class on Alitalia and then traversed an arid, rugged terrain, covered with ancient ruins. I baked in the hot Sicilian sun and burned the bottoms of my feet on the shores of the Ionian Sea. I ate to the point of discomfort over and over again, while tasting a variety of delicious but unforgiving wines. (I can’t even begin to discuss the pain inflicted on me by my friend, Signor Grappa.) I barely slept (except for afternoon naps) and was forced to stand for hours in a hot kitchen, with only a cappuccino and a few cups of espresso to keep me awake. All of this I did for you, so that I could bring you the following recipe for Pasta con le Sarde, directly from its point of origin.
Luckily for all of us, Chef Angelo Pumilia at La Foresteria (part of the Planeta winery in Menfi, Sicily) took pity on me and agreed to teach me his family recipe, which I adapted below. It really is for you, as you will come to understand when you make it, taste it, share it with friends, and take credit for it. And with that, all of my suffering shall not have been in vain.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion and fennel in the olive oil, add the anchovies and mash into a paste. When the onion is golden, add the sardines and Marsala wine and cook for two minutes. Dissolve saffron in the fish stock -if you don't have fish stock, you can substitute with water - and add to the skillet. Add the raisins, toasted pine nuts, and salt and pepper and cook for five minutes.
Cook the pasta until al dente (about 2 minutes less than package directions), drain, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, and add the pasta to the sardines. Toss together and cook for an additional minute or so - add reserved cooking water if the pasta seems too dry.
Garnish with breadcrumbs, almonds, chopped fennel fronds to serve.
Ed Garrubbo, Editor