Sardine and wild fennel sauce, Sicily: Recipes from an Italian island

Sardine and wild fennel sauce, Sicily: Recipes from an Italian islandHelen Cathcart

F&W Pick: sardine and wild fennel sauce

Sicily: Recipes from an Italian island

Author: Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi

Photography by Helen Cathcart

Hardie Grant Books, €35

For a taste of the vibrant Mediterranean, Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi’s cookbook uncovers a range of dishes rich in Sicilian food culture. Working their way from the capital Palermo to the Baroque town of Noto, the recipes share influences from Italy, France, Greece and Spain in a rich tapestry of flavours reflecting the island’s history. Quirky insights into the local culture complete the lively, warm photography for a sweet slice of Sicilian life in a cookbook.

Sardine and wild fennel sauce

Serves 4

  • 1 white onion, finely chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped

  • A little fresh red chilli or a pinch of dried Chilli flakes, to taste

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large handful wild fennel

  • 5 anchovies in oil

  • 1 heaped tablespoon pine nuts

  • 2 tablespoons soft, sweet raisins or currants

  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 fresh sardines, filleted

  • 1 pinch saffron strands
  • 1 handful toasted flaked almonds, roughly crushed
  • Pasta, cooked
  1. Fry the onion, garlic and chilli together in the oil. Boil the wild fennel whole for five minutes and save the water to cook your pasta later. Squeeze the fennel to get rid of the excess water and chop finely. Melt the anchovies in the oil with the onion and add the pine nuts, raisins, fennel and tomatoes. Season to taste.
  2. Add the sardines and the saffron mixed with 2 tablespoons of hot water, cover and leave to cook for five minutes or until
the fish is cooked through. Break the fish up a little and taste the sauce. Season as necessary. Add just-cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Serve in warm bowls topped with the almonds.