Turn inexpensive fresh sardines and store cupboard ingredients into this authentic and simple Sicilian pasta dish.
10 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
5 anchovy fillets in oil
1 kg/2lb 4oz fresh sardines, scaled, cleaned and filleted
1 tbsp strattu or 2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp currants
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 pinches saffron thread
800g/1lb 12oz bucatini pasta (or spaghetti)
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pan of water to boil, add the chopped fennel and boil for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat eight tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and fry for five minutes until softened and translucent then stir in the anchovy fillets and fry gently for 3-4 minutes until they have broken down.
Add half the sardines, the strattu and a couple of ladlefuls of water from the fennel pan. Stir for a few minutes then add the currants, the pine nuts and saffron. Cook gently for 15 minutes.
When the fennel is cooked, drain and reserve the cooking water. Add the fennel pieces to the sardine mixture and a splash more fennel water to slacken the mixture to a thick sauce consistency. Add the rest of the sardine fillets and cook for a further 10 minutes, breaking up the fillets a little.
Meanwhile, bring the reserved fennel water back to the boil. Add plenty of salt and top up with boiling water if necessary then add the bucatini and cook according to packet instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, fry the breadcrumbs with the remaining olive oil over a medium-high heat until golden-brown and crunchy.
Drain the bucatini and mix with the sardine sauce then leave it to rest for 10 minutes.
To serve, spoon the pasta onto warm serving plates and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
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