From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...This is a simple, but classic, Sicilian pasta that has Arabic overtones. The sauce is made with tomatoes, fennel, raisins, sardines and pine nuts. It is usually spooned over a broad or tubular pasta and then topped with a generous sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs. While I have chosen a simple toss and top application, some cooks prefer to create multiple layers using these ingredients. The breadcrumbs in the dish are used in place of cheese and at one time they actually served that function for the poor. They also have a symbolic importance for those who observe St. Joseph's Day. As you know, Joseph was a carpenter and the breadcrumbs that crown this dish are used because they resemble the sawdust that would be found on the floor of a carpenter's workshop. Pasta con sarde is also known as St. Joseph's pasta, and in those communities where his feast day is still celebrated, you'll find this pasta on family tables, as well as on symbolic altars set up to feed the poor. The dish is easy to make and the sardines give it a unique, though not unpleasant flavor. It, quite simply, tastes of the sea. Raisins are used in Sicilian cooking to provide sweetness and they pair beautifully with the fennel in this recipe. I hope you'll be adventurous and give this earthy peasant dish a try. I really think you'll enjoy it. Here's the recipe.
Pasta con Sarde - St. Joseph's Pasta...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite adapted from the Cucina Deliziosa Cookbook
1 pound sardines, canned in olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts, slightly toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup red wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can peeled Italian tomatoes packed in juice, undrained
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound papardelle or bucatini or linguine
St. Joseph's bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1) To make sauce: In a large pot, saute garlic in oil for 2 minutes. Add undrained tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook over medium heat, stirring and breaking up tomatoes; let cook for about 10 minutes. Add raisins, wine, pine nuts, sardines, fennel seeds, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook at least 30 minutes over low heat. Stir in oregano and parsley and simmer 10 minutes more.
2) To make bread crumbs: Toast bread crumbs in olive oil in a frying pan set over low heat. Stir constantly to prevent burning. Remove from heat and add sugar.
3) Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Toss pasta with sauce. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings.
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