National Dish of Sicily: Pasta with Sardines and Fennel


After returning from language school in Taormina, Sicily, my sister continued to crave Sicilian food. She discovered a recipe for Sicilian Pasta with Sardines that was so good she ate it for dinner, and then for breakfast and lunch the next day.

Pasta with Sardines is one of Sicily’s classic dishes, and there are countless recipes for it. In The Flavors of Sicily, Anna Tasca Lanza refers to it as “the national dish of Sicily.” Lanza, the owner of Sicily’s Regaleali winery and Sicilian food expert, says Pasta with Sardines and Fennel contains all the classic elements of Sicilian food: “fennel from the earth, fish from the sea, pine nuts from the trees, dried currants from the vine, … and that most Sicilian of ingredients, pasta.”

Some versions of the dish contain saffron, some use tomato sauce, and others augment the sardines with anchovies. The two constants are sardines and fennel.

Pasta with Sardines and Fennel is a simple recipe, made primarily with pantry staples. I will happily make it over and over again.

Be sure to check out the recipes mentioned in this post:


4 Responses to National Dish of Sicily: Pasta with Sardines and Fennel

  1. ha. that is so funny that you said watch the pine nuts. I burned both the nuts AND the bread crumbs. p.s. why do the pine nuts these days come from china?

  2. In my life I have probably burnt as many pine nuts as I’ve eaten. It’s sad. That’s why I like the big Costco bags — you have plenty to try again after the first batch goes in the garbage.

    The year we were in Greece, we lived across the street from a stand of pine trees and thought we were really clever to collect the cones with the idea of getting free pine nuts. Something for nothing. What a joke. The shell around the pine nut is so hard that when we cracked them, the meat inside was destroyed. It made me understand why they are so expensive – they are a royal pain to clean.

    I know the pine nuts from China are from a different species. Maybe the ones there don’t have such hard shells? Or maybe it’s just a function of cheap labor?

  3. omg, i have always dreamed of this dish, as my dad’s sicilian family, the women of course, would be watching pans, sauteing bread crumbs and what i now know were pine nuts, mashing sardines and preparing a dish that i so loved. it was my dad’s favorite and my mom finally learned how to make it from dad’s sister so we used to have it at home and i can remember the taste, so distinct, unusual and delicious. now, i find this recipe and i am vegan, however, i am going to try it without the sardines and see if i can get that taste. perhaps they make a vegan sardine flavored seitan or something. i will check it out for sure.
    thanks for this recipe, you have made my day! la

  4. Klio D.,Thessaloniki,Greece says:

    As far as I know,pine nuts are so expensive because they are collected from the cones of a species of pine trees that are called koukounaries,they are completely round shaped,not like pine trees.So,there aren’t so many of them.We have them in Skiathos,and they are too very hard to crack,the cones I mean.I think here in Greece,we get a lot of pine nuts from Turkey.

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