Pasta with sardines is certainly among the most particular of the Sicilian gastronomic heritage. This dish in fact combines culture, tradition and ancient needs that make it unique and special. Due to its particular flavor and the ingredients used, we can say with certainty that the recipe for pasta with sardines was created during the period of the Arab-Norman domination.
At the base of the pasta with sardines there is a cook whose name is unknown, who lived almost certainly in the IX Ad, a historical period attributable to the Arab and Byzantine domination.
The story tells of Eufemio da Messina a commander who decided to lead a group of rebels in a revolt in an attempt to chase away the current domination of the time, the Byzantine one. Obviously his attempt was unsuccessful, Eufemio was captured and kicked out of Sicily with a bizarre excuse that reality seemed only a pretext.
Subsequently Eufemio settles in Africa and there he allies himself with the Saracens organizing an expedition to take revenge. The journey to get back to Sicily turns out to be long and tiring to the point that the soldiers are unable to find the necessary forces to be able to sustain a battle.
Eufemio’s cook, after arriving in Mazara del Vallo with the fleet, decided to create something that could restore strength to the soldiers using the typical local foods that had been provided to him, namely sardines, fennel, saffron and pasta. In this way the current pasta with sardines was born, a recipe that has been handed down for generations.
Pasta with sardines is a mix of strong and distinct flavors that blend perfectly with each other. The undisputed protagonists are basically two, namely sardines and wild fennel, a Mediterranean plant that grows spontaneously and has aromatic properties. Due to the use of these two ingredients, we can say that pasta with sardines is a first course “sea and mountains”. The use of saffron is also fundamental, as it is able to better blend the distinct flavors, moreover in the traditional recipe are also used raisins, pine nuts, onions, oil, salt and pepper.
In the Messina variant, saffron is generally not used. The pasta usually used with this sauce is bucatino, a type of long pasta similar to spaghetti but with a hole in the center. In general, pasta with sardines is served with a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs on top that gives an extra note of flavor and crunchiness.
If you want to discover another way to cook sardines instead, follow our recipe for sarde a beccafico. A real must!