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Pasta con le Sarde

Pasta con le Sarde

by | Dec 22, 2022 | Recipes

Pasta with sardines Palermo-style: Original recipe with step-by-step photos

rrPasta with sardines is a sea-mountain first course typical of Sicilian cuisine, in particular of Palermo. Based on spaghettoni or bucatini seasoned with fresh sardines, wild fennel, saffron, pine nuts, raisins; finally enriched by the crunchy note with toasted tomato breadcrumbs. A unique mix of flavours, where the flavor of the fish meets the sweetness of the raisins and the intense aroma of the fennel! All in all, a real treat! Do you want to prepare it too? Here is the Pasta with sardines recipe with all the Tricks illustrated with step-by-step photos for a perfect result like in the best Palermo trattorias!

Like any traditional recipe, there are small variations that can make all the difference. What I’m giving you today is the Original Recipe of Pasta with sardines alla Palermo, the most classic and best known. It is a simple preparation, you will only need a little time available to prepare the various ingredients. The secret for an excellent result, in addition to using fresh and quality ingredients is rising the pasta in the sauce, which will ensure that it will completely embrace all the flavours. Perfect to prepare from March to September, when fennel and fresh sardines are cheap! Just like Pasta alla norma, it is ideal both as a first course for lunch and for dinner! but also for the most special occasions! Like a Sunday with the family, perhaps ending the meal with a nice slice of Sicilian Cassata or Cannoli

Pasta con le sarde Recipe


Preparation Cooking Total
30 minutes 20 minutes 50 minutes


Quantity for 4 people

For the Sauce:

  • 400 gr of spaghettoni o bucatini
  • 300 gr of fresh sardines
  • 100 gr of fresh onion
  • 150 gr of wild fennel
  • 1 clove of garlic (the traditional recipe calls for red garlic)
  • 25 gr of raisins
  • 20 gr di pinoli 
  • 6 anchovies in oil
  • dry chilli
  • EVO Oil
  • 1 packet of saffron
  • salt

For the crunchy crumb:

  • 150 gr of breadcrumbs
  • 30 gr of  tomato puree
  • 40 gr of EVO Oil
  • 1 Garlic
  • parsley
  • dry chilli


How to make pasta with sardines

First of all, clean the fennel by removing the toughest parts of the stems.

Then boil it in 3 liters of water. The cooking time varies: 3 – 4 minutes if it is tender wild fennel, extended to 10 – 12 minutes if it is late .

Finally, drain and keep the cooking water aside.

Then drain it and crush it in a colander, eliminating the excess water.

Add the liquid poured from the fennel to the cooking water kept aside.

Finally chop the fennel finely.

Then pour the tomato sauce into a mixer together with a drizzle of oil, half a clove of finely minced garlic, oregano, chilli pepper and parsley. Then blend to obtain a homogeneous mixture; add the breadcrumbs and mix well with a spoon to mix.

Grain everything with a large-mesh sieve or a colander so as to eliminate the humidity, taking care to put the food residues from the colander back into the bowl.

Finally, pour the  mixture into a pan. Salt and toast until dry and crunchy:

At this point you can dedicate yourself to cleaning the sardines:

First of all prepare 1 bowl with water and ice. Cut off the head, the dorsal and ventral fins and the central bone in order to have an intact and unbroken fillet of anchovies.

Then rinse all the fillets in the bowl with water and ice and finally clean them under cold running water and drain them on a tray lined with absorbent paper.

Then pat dry and divide each fillet into 3 pieces:

Pasta with sardines sauce

First of all finely chop the spring onions and fry them in a pan with oil, minced garlic and anchovies.

When the anchovies start to fall apart, add a drop of their oil and the chilli pepper, cook for 2 minutes then pour half a glass of water, the saffron and the pine nuts.

Finally, add the raisins and fennel. Mix well, let it infuse for a couple of minutes and then add the sardines:

If necessary, add a little more water so that the sardines are covered.

Finally let it cook for about 5 – 6 minutes. The sauce must be full-bodied and the sardines not flaked. Correct with salt.

In the meantime, bring the fennel cooking water to the boil with salt; if that’s not enough, you can dilute it with more water.

Finally, cook the spaghettoni just under the time indicated, then drain them in the pan with the sauce and leave them to cook again for another 2 minutes, adding a little more water to the cooking fennel if necessary.

When the pasta is ready, add another drizzle of oil and stir for a maximum of one minute, stirring gently without letting the sardines fall apart.

Serve hot with the crunchy crumb.

Your pasta Pasta with Sardines ready!

Alessandro Rizzo

Cooking has been my passion since I was a child! Every day I work to offer my customers an experience of taste and quality that recall the art of Italian cuisine and my beloved Palermo!


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