It combines fresh fennel bulb and fennel seeds to mimic the more intense wild fennel Sicilians love. Use any good dried pasta, but short, twisty shapes hold the chunky sauce better.
For the shopping list
From the kitchen
Large Pot for Pasta
Put the pasta water on first. While it’s getting hot, trim the stalks from the fennel bulb. Pluck off any of the frilly fronds, chop, and set aside. Cut the bulb into roughly quarter inch chunks. Put the tomatoes in a bowl and use your hands to break them up.
Cook the fennel with the fennel seeds in a healthy glug of olive oil and a good pinch of sea salt until tender, about 15 minutes. Push the fennel to the edges of the pan, add a tablespoon of tomato paste, and let it cook for a minute.
Chop the garlic and add it to the fennel, cook for a minute or so, then add the tomatoes. Add the sardines, breaking them up with a spoon, and a couple of teaspoons of fennel pollen. Simmer until the pasta is ready.
Cook the pasta in well-salted water until you hit your preferred version of al dente (check the package for cooking time and start tasting the pasta when you get close). Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Let the pasta cook in the sauce for a minute or two, then stir in the chopped fennel fronds.
We love fritters. Make a big batch of these classic Italian frittelle flavored with mint because they disappear quickly.