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
fresh lemon

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!


Natalia said…
I've never heard of this feast either, but the dish sounds yummy. Never thought of mixing sardines, fennel and raisins.. an interesting combo, which I'm sure is tasty. OK, if you order your sardines from France - which local store would be the best place to get comparable sardines? Looking forward to trying this. Happy St Joseph's Day Stacey!
Ciao Chow Linda said…
I swear I think you have Italian genes in you.
SarahBTT said…
Wow!!! This is THE perfect pasta dish!
Unknown said…
I grew up with this. My mom/aunts never put raisins in it. I attempted it with fresh sardines (followed Jaime Oliver's recipe) but it wasn't as good as my mom's or Aunt's. My fav. is the bread crumbs. Love the texture.
I never put tomato paste in mine--I'm going to try that next time I make it!
TheJimBar said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheJimBar said…
First time I ever had this was the first year I started dating Karen 28 years ago. Father took me right into the family, as I loved it!!! My wife is still not a my St. Joseph's macaroni!
Stacey Snacks said…
I can always count on you to comment on St. Joseph's pasta con sarde!!!! xo
Joan Nova said…
This is one of my favorite pasta dishes -- and it's been too long since I've had it. Thanks for reminding me!
Angela said…
This dish has my name on it! LOVE.
Are you sure there's no Italian in you Paesan?