Pasta con Sarde
We've celebrated St. Patrick this week, now let's talk about an Italian Saint.
Tomorrow is my favorite holiday of the year. It's St. Joseph's Day.
Why would a Jewish girl celebrate St. Joseph's day? the day Sicilians celebrate the Feast of San Giuseppe?
Because today is the one day a year, I make our favorite Pasta con Sarde! A traditional Sicilian pasta dish made with sardines, fennel and raisins to commemorate the feast!
My husband, who is partially Italian, had never heard of this holiday until he met me, since his Italian roots are in the North. But he is more than happy to celebrate with me by eating this delicious pasta dish.
Pasta con Sarde: (St. Joseph's Day Pasta)
5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for finishing
1 large fennel head (cut in small dice), save the fronds
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons golden raisins or currants
1 teaspoon fennel pollen (or ground fennel seeds)
1/2 pound (8 oz.) linguine or spaghetti
1 can of good sardines (I mail order mine from France, would St. Joseph approve?)
1 cup breadcrumbs, preferably homemade
hot pepper flakes
Make the breadcrumbs:
In a small sauté pan, add 2 tbsp olive oil. When oil is heated, add fresh breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown.
Be careful not to burn them. You just want to get a nice golden color on them. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool. (You can make the breadcrumbs the day before and keep on the counter in a sealed container, don't refrigerate them or they will turn soggy).
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add diced fennel and onion, and sauté until soft and translucent but not browned, approximately 5 minutes.
Mix in tomato paste and stir until vegetables are coated, approximately 2 minutes. Next add in raisins or currants and let them soften from the heat and absorb some of the juices from the sautéed vegetables. Sprinkle with fennel pollen (or ground fennel). Your kitchen is going to smell so good!
Add the pasta to boiling salted water and cook as per package directions (saving 1/4 cup of the pasta water).
Cut the sardines into pieces and add to sauté pan with onions and fennel, and cook for 1-2 minutes until fish is just cooked through. You do not want to overcook them, as the heat from the pasta will continue to cook the sardines.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander, remembering to save 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water.
Add the pasta into sauté pan with sardines and fennel.
Add the reserved 1/4 cup of pasta water to thicken the sauce and season w/ salt & pepper.
Place pasta in serving bowl and sprinkle with a handful of fresh fennel fronds (the feathery green leaves) and toasted breadcrumbs. You can squeeze a lemon over the finished dish and drizzle with some more olive oil just before serving.
Happy St. Joseph's Day!