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Bucatini with Sardines & Caramelized Fennel
Ingredients
Directions
Ingredients
Kosher salt
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3 tbsp
olive oil
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2
anchovy filets, minced
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¼ c
panko
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¼ tsp
fennel seeds
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1 lg
fennel bulb, root end trimmed and fronds trimmed and reserved
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1 sm
yellow onion, chopped
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4
garlic cloves, minced
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¼ c
yellow raisins, coarsely chopped
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¼ c
white wine
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1 lb
bucatini
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2-3
cans sardines in olive oil, drained
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Bucatini with Sardines & Caramelized Fennel

This is sort of a simplified version of pasta con le sarde, a Sicilian dish that blends fennel and sardines with a flurry of other pantry ingredients, spinning any old tin of sardines into a pasta that would be worth traveling for. Some versions include pine nuts, capers, and currants. I personally like the sweetness of yellow raisins, and if you chop them before adding, their subtle sweetness will be distributed throughout the dish. I also like to double down on the flavors and textures of fennel, mincing some to cook with the onions and garlic, caramelizing a few wedges, and topping the whole thing with fennel seed–flavored bread crumbs and plenty of lacy green fronds. 

Check out Tin to Table: Fancy, Snacky Recipes for Tin-thusiasts and A-fish-ionados by Anna Hezel

4 servings

  1. Fill a large pot with water, add a big pinch of salt, and bring to a boil.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the anchovies and stir until they begin to break down and dissolve into the oil. Stir in the panko and fennel seeds. Cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes, until the bread crumbs turn light brown. Remove from the heat, and use a spatula or slotted spoon to transfer the bread crumb mixture to a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Wash a big handful of the fennel fronds and wrap gently in a dish towel to dry. Coarsely chop and set aside.
  4. Remove the outer three or four layers of the fennel bulb and mince. You should be left with a small bulb—about half the weight of the original. Cut into eight wedges.
  5. Return the skillet to medium-low heat and add 1 Tbsp of the olive oil. Place the fennel wedges gently in the pan, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5 minutes, or until they’re golden brown on the bottom. Use tongs to flip and cook for 5 minutes on the other side. Transfer to a small plate.
  6. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the skillet, still over medium-low heat, and add the minced fennel, onion, garlic, and raisins. Cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes, until the onion and fennel have softened and the garlic has become fragrant. Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat.
  7. Cook the bucatini in the boiling water according to the instructions on the package until al dente (usually 1 minute less than the recommended time). Drain, reserving1⁄4cup[60ml] of the cooking water.
  8. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the pasta and the reserved cooking water. Cook, using tongs to toss the pasta with the aromatics, until the water evaporates and the pasta is perfectly done. Break the sardines apart with your fingers and add them to the skillet. Toss them with the pasta until just heated through and remove the skillet from the heat.
  9. Toss half the fennel fronds and half the bread crumbs into the pasta and divide among four plates. Top with the caramelized fennel wedges and the remaining fennel fronds and bread crumbs.

Reprinted from Tin to Table by Anna Hezel, with permission by Chronicle Books, 2023. Photographs © Chelsie Craig. Illustrations © Alex Citrin.

Anna Hezel

Anna Hezel is the former senior editor of TASTE.