Pasta with Wild Fennels and "Runaway Sardines"

“Pasta con Sarde Fuggite”


“Pasta chi Sardi a Mari”


In Palermo, this pasta is made using the recipe of Pasta con Sarde without the fresh sardine, because the sardines… ran away into the sea, or they were not available; double the amount of the salted anchovies in place of the missing fresh sardines, to give additional taste.





  • 1 lb wild fennels
  • 10 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely diced
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 10 salted anchovies fillets rinsed
  • Tip of a teaspoon of saffron diluted in 3 tablespoons of water for the sauce  
  • ½ cup of currants or raisins soaked in hot water
  • 1/3 cup of pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. perciatelli or bucatini pasta
  • Tip of a teaspoon of saffron diluted in 3 tablespoons of water for the pasta 



The Fennels
Clean 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 lightly salted water to a boil, add fennels and cook, keeping pot at a medium heat for 15 minutes or until fennels are very tender. Scoop out the boiled fennels with a slatted spoon and when they are cooled, chop them very fine. Save the fennel water for cooking the pasta.


The Onions
Over a medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a 3 quart saucepan.
Add diced onions, sauté until onions are golden, about 7 minutes.

The Breadcrumbs
In a 10 inch skillet, over a medium flame, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil add
2 tablespoons of sautéed onions and breadcrumbs. Keep stirring until crumbs are light brown. Place in a container and set aside. In some parts of Sicily onions are substituted with sugar.

The Sauce
Over a medium flame, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a 4 quart saucepan.
Add the remaining sautéed onions, the salted anchovies and stir with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking until anchovies are almost melted, about 3 minutes. 
Add chopped fennels, increase heat to high and cook for about 3 minutes. 
Add the diluted saffron, currant, pine nuts, add ½ cup of the reserved water from the fennels, and salt and pepper to taste. Lower the flame and simmer for about 25 minutes.


                         Pasta con anchoives- fennels and breadcrumbs

The Pasta
Cook pasta according to package directions, reducing recommended cooking time by 2 minutes. 
Drain pasta well and put back in pot. Mix in remaining saffron.
Toss in ½ of the sauce and 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs.
Mix for 2 minutes on low heat or until pasta and sauce are well combined.

Serving Suggestions
Plate individual portions of pasta, add a spoonful of sauce and sprinkle each plate with breadcrumbs.
Serve immediately.


If wild fennels are not available use the green foliage of the bulb fennels