Pasta con le sarde


a very large frying pan

a large gratin dish


3 small (120g) tins of sardines in oil

Extra olive oil as needed

1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

6 anchovy fillets

2 tbls currants, soaked in hot water

2 tbls pine nuts

½ cup tomato paste and a glug of ketsup

1 tbls capers, rinsed

A handful of pitted green olives

1 lb wholewheat shell maccaroni, preferably artisanal bronze-extruded

toasted bread crumbs


Open the tins and drain the oil into a very large hot frying pan. (Best to cover 'til it stops spattering.) Start with the fennel and onion, frying until they are well softened but not browned. Add the other ingredients except the pasta and bread crumbs. Simmer slowly until thoroughly cooked down and integrated, adding water as necessary. The mixture should be a bit sloppy.

When the sauce is almost done, cook the pasta separately as instructed on the package, 'til al dente. Drain and stir into the cooked sauce in the pan. Tip out into an ample gratin dish.

Up to this point, the recipe may be done in advance. When ready to serve, put the gratin dish in a cold oven and bring it to gas 6, 200ºC, 425ºF. After a few minutes, check whether the mixture is too dry; add water if necessary. Bake until bubbling. Sprinkle with the crisp toasted breadcrumbs.

©2006 John Whiting