Pasta with Sardines & Fennel
This is my adaptation of Pasta with Sardines and Fennel, starting with the recipe my sister used, but modifying it significantly to enhance the primary elements of sardines and fennel. The finished dish has such balanced flavors that no single ingredient stands out. Had I not made it myself, I wouldn’t have known it contained sardines. It’s a gloriously harmonious creation.
1/2 cups currants
3/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup Panko (dried breadcrumbs)
2 cans sardines in olive oil
2 large or 4 small fennel bulbs (3 1/2 cups diced)
4 cups diced yellow onions, 1/4” dice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. fennel seeds, crushed
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 lb. penne, or any other pasta
Mix currants and wine in small bowl. Set aside.
Toast pine nuts in dry frying pan over medium heat, watching carefully to make sure they don’t burn. Put pine nuts in bowl large enough to hold cooked pasta.
Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to frying pan, and brown Panko in oil, stirring frequently, until breadcrumbs are lightly toasted. Set aside.
Open sardines, drain off oil, put sardines in small bowl, and mash them with fork. Add half the mashed sardines to bowl with toasted pine nuts, and set aside remaining half of sardines.
Cut stalks off fennel bulb, cut bulb in half, remove hard core, and dice fennel bulb into 1/4” dice. Remove green fronds from fennel stalks, chop them, and add to bowl with pine nuts. Discard fennel stalks.
Sauté onions, fennel bulb, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, salt, and freshly ground black pepper in 1/4 cup olive oil until fennel is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in wine, currants, reserved mashed sardines, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed.
While cooking onions and fennel, boil pasta in salted water until it’s al dente. Drain pasta and add it and hot fennel-onion mixture to bowl with pine nuts. Toss well. Add toasted bread crumbs and toss again. Serve with crisp green salad and black olives.