Pasta con le sarde

In August 1957, Joseph Bonanno went to Rome and Sicily to bring together the Mafia chiefs of the old and the United States. On October 12th of that year, Bonanno arranged a dinner meeting at Spano, a well-known Palermo seafood restaurant on the Piazza Politeama, near the waterfront. Seated in a private alcove were a dozen Sicilian Mafioso and a group of American hoods that included Bonanno, Carmine Galante, John Bonventre, Frank Garofalo, Antonio, Giuseppe and Gaspare Maggadino from Buffalo, Johnny Priziola who ran Detroit, John Di Bella, Santo Sorge and Nick Gentile. The meal and meeting was said to have lasted a remarkable 12 hours and included pasta con le sarde, a classic Sicilian dish, created around pasta, sardines, anchovies and fennel.

Pasta con le sarde

2 pounds fresh sardines

1 1/2 pounds bulb fennel, thickly sliced

1/2 cup olive oil

2 onions, finely sliced

4 anchovy filets

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 package saffron

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound bucatini

1 cup breadcrumbs


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove heads and tails from half the sardines. Cut in 1 inch pieces. Leave second half intact.

Wash and trim fennel. Put into pan with about 8 cups cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 5- 8 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon, drain in colander, then gently squeeze out water. Chop roughly. Reserve cooking water.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in frying pan. Sauté onions over medium heat until golden. Add chopped sardines and anchovies. As they cook, crush sardines with back of spoon to make a thick paste. Add pine nuts, raisins, saffron, salt and pepper.

In a separate pan, heat remaining oil and lightly sauté the fennel, removing to a separate bowl. Sauté the remaining whole sardines. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes, turning once gently to not break sardines.
Using fennel water, boil pasta until al dente, about 10 -= 12 minutes. Drain. Put in bowl and dress with half the sardine sauce. Put a layer of dressed pasta in an ovenproof casserole. On top of that, put a layer of fennel, then a a layer of whole sardines with additional sauce. Continue until ingredients are used up, ending with a layer of bucatini. Cover with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over top. Cover and bake in preheated 350°F oven 15 - 20 minutes. Pasta may be served hot or cold.