November 27, 2012

Culinary Notes- Pasta con le sarde

Sometimes recipes just need to be made, just because.
I met a saffron producer online, who is also creating some facinating products from his farm in San Miniato.

Toni's site is Croco e Similace. Besides saffron, he grows rhubarb and thyme. He creates some very creative products which I can't wait to try. Strawberry and thyme jam, green apple, mint and cardomom jelly. Saffron butter, honey with truffles and saffron grappa, rhubarb and ginger jam; rhubarb, hazelnut and truffle pate. I am so curious to try them all!

But today Toni brought me a sample of his saffron. This year my plants didn't flower. He said it was due to the fact that it didn't become cold enough, so I have to wait for next year.

I was immediately inspired to make a favorite Sicilian dish, Pasta con le Sarde- pasta with sardines.

A simple look at how i made it:

Pasta con le Sarde

about the ingredients, usually white onions, saffron in threads, the pinenuts are traditionally sold with tiny black currants for cooking in Palermo, I used raisins. Wild fennel greens are hard to find in Tuscany so i used what i could get off my fennel plants from the store, but fennel fronds are sold separately in Sicily.

The saffron is first placed to soak in hot water.

Saute onions in olive oil and boil wild fennel greens in a separate pot.
Add the drained greens ( saving the water you cooked them in) to the onions.
Add raisins and pinenuts and the fresh boned sardines.
Let cook until the sardines start to break down.
( some people add anchovies)

Boil spaghetti, or bucatini in salted water ( add the left over water from cooking the fennel greens into the boiling water).

Drain the pasta a litte al dente into the pan and add the saffron and the water it soaked in.

Finish cooking the pasta by stirring. The pasta will absorb the saffron water and become a light yellow.

Serve with breadcrumbs instead of parmesan cheese.


Thanks to Toni from 

Azienda  Agricola  Croco e Smilace
Via Elsa, 1
Loc. Canneto
56028 San Miniato (PI)

A list of where you can find his products in Tuscany: CLICK HERE FOR THE LIST.


  1. I wonder if canned sardines can be substituted for fresh ones. This sounds so interesting.

  2. @rosaria not sure about canned sardines-- but probably ok as most recipes also add canned anchovies for flavor! Try and let me know.I immagine it with tiny swordfish cubes---- the flavors are really ancient and wonderful. or perhaps the onion, fennel greens, currants, pinenuts and saffron as a sauce on fish???

  3. Oh Judy, this is the ultimate Sicilian soul food, I crave this dish. There is one restaurant, Focacceria Palermitana, here where I live that always has it on the menu, and it is delicious. I like to eat this on St. Joseph's Day. xo

  4. WOWEE!! I love the new look! Your site looks wonderful, and this article rocks. Don't you love finding new things to try? I certainly do.

    Sorry about your saffron not happening this year, but I guess that is Mother Nature for you.

  5. Looks yummy!!!!! I used canned sardines a lot for pasta. It's not exactly the same of course, but can be very good with good quality canned sardines. And the added bonus of being able to have canned sardines in the pantry for last minute pasta.

  6. @barbara F - usually for st joseph's day it is garlic, olive oil and chili with anchovies-- and the breadcrumbs are toasted in the pan with the mixture-- one of my all time favorites! ( did you know that the breadcrumbs represent the sawdust from st joseph's workshop?)
    there is a HUGE festival in Salemi i want to go to in march to see their alters they make with bread scupltures!

  7. Judy, when we came to Florence again for Easter this year I brought you some beautiful Saffron from India instead of an Easteregg to say thank you for all the pleasure and super advise your blog gave me over the years - but, sadly - you had left Florence and we could not find you. Maybe next year? Ciao, Carina

  8. @carina-- i come down to florence often-- i live in the countryside on the way to Siena! let me know- thanks anyway!