Spaghetti with Fresh Anchoives

“Spaghetti con Alici e Finocchio Selvatico”
“Pasta chi Masculini a Catanisi”


If the Pasta con Sarde, pasta with sardines, is very popular in the western part of Sicily, Spaghetti with Anchovies is equally popular in the eastern part of the Island.
The anchovies are abundant in the sea waters around Catania and the local fishermen bring their catch to the neighborhood to offer and sell the fish fresh and wholesome.
The spaghetti with anchovies synthesizes the taste and smell of the product and produce of Catania and the vicinity. The fresh anchovies used in this preparation have the smell of the Ionic sea, the wild fennels the scent of the 
winds coming from Mt. Etna, the young peas and the tomato have a complex taste coming from the richness of the volcanic soil.
A portion of spaghetti with anchovies, wild fennels and peas either homemade or sampled in a restaurant, is an interesting dish that will stimulate your taste and that will always provide a new experience even to the most sophisticated connoisseurs. 


Serves 4 to 5



  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 lb. wild fennels
  • 1 lb. anchovies
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 can of 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 3 salted anchovies, rinsed, filleted and chopped
  • ½ lb. peas, if using frozen, blanch them in lightly salted water
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper to taste



The Fennels

Clean the wild fennels by removing and discarding the roots and any discolored fronds. Rinse a few times and set aside.
Bring a large pot with 5 quarts of water,1 tablespoon of salt and the fennels to a boil, turn to a medium heat and cook fennels for 15 minutes or until very tender. Scoop out the boiled fennels with a slatted spoon and when they are cooled, chop them very small. Set the water aside and save it to cook the pasta in.
In a 10 inch skillet, over a medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the chopped fennels and cook for 30 minutes, adding some water if they became too dry.
If wild fennels are not available use the green foliage of bulb fennels.




The Anchovies

Remove the heads and place the anchovies in a basin with cold water. Using your finger and with the help of a teaspoon, remove scales and discard interior. Open it and insert your finger under the bone to remove it, remove any other visible bone and set aside.
When the anchovies are deboned, rinse fish and place in a colander.


       Deboned Anchoives  Onions Peas                        


The Sauce

Over a medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12 inch sauté pan.
Add diced onions and sauté until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. 
Add tomato paste and sauté adding 2 cups of the reserved fennel water a little at the time. Raise heat to high and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. 
Lower the flame, add salted anchovies, the peas and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the sautéed fennels, the fresh anchovies and some more reserved fennel water to give the sauce the desired consistency. Do not make it too watery nor to thick. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, taste for salt and pepper.

The Pasta

Bring the water reserved from the fennels to a boil and cook the spaghetti in it according to package directions, reducing recommended cooking time by 2 minutes. 
Drain pasta well and put back in pot. 
Toss in one half of the sauce and mix for 2 minutes on a low heat or until pasta and sauce are well combined.


Serving Suggestions

Plate individual portions of pasta, and garnish with a spoonful of sauce and serve immediately.

Spaghetti can be substituted with bucatini or perciatelli.