Pasta with Sardines & Wild Fennel


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Falling Cloudberries

By Tessa Kiros

Published 2004

  • About

This is lovely and quite delicate in its simplicity. It will make six filling portions. Use small sardines, up to about 12 cm (5 inches) long and around 30 g (1 oz) each. If you like a stronger taste, you could also add a few mashed-up anchovies. You will need a large handful of beautiful soft wild fennel here.


  • about 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) small fresh sardines
  • 1 large handful wild fennel or baby fennel fronds
  • 3 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 185 ml (¾ cup) olive oil
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) linguini
  • 2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed with the flat of a knife
  • 1 spring onion (scallion), white part only, finely sliced


Fillet each sardine by cutting off the head and making a slit along the underside with a small sharp knife. Remove the guts, then remove the central bone by pulling it away by the tail with one hand while holding the sardine with the other. You will be left with two attached fillets.

Remove any tough stalks from the fennel, leaving them in wisps or breaking them up if they are very long.

Crumble the bread into coarse crumbs. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the crumbs until they are deep golden and crisp. Remove to a small bowl. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water, following the packet instructions.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the garlic, fennel and spring onion and sauté for a few seconds to flavour the oil, then add the sardines. Continue to cook for a few minutes on a high heat, flipping them around in the pan, but taking care not to break them up. Cook for a couple of minutes until the fish are just opaque. Remove from the heat until your pasta is ready.

Drain the pasta but keep a cup or so of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the frying pan if it fits, if not, transfer the pasta and sardines to a large bowl and carefully toss together, adding some of the pasta cooking water if necessary. Serve immediately with a small handful of breadcrumbs and a grinding of black pepper over each bowl.