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Pasta with sardines is a classic of Sicilian cuisine, original for the combination of its ingredients so different and contrasting, but so well harmonized with each other to give the whole that unmistakable taste, which has made it one of the most representative of our cuisine.
The fresh and wild aroma of the wild fennel that envelops the strong one of the sardines, the spicy note given by the saffron and the sweet one of the "passolina" (a variety of small and slightly acidulated raisins) and of the pine nuts, create a sauce with a unique taste, that goes well with the bucatini, pasta that gives to the dish the right "relevance".
It is said that this recipe was invented by a cook of the commander Eufemio, around the ninth century AD. Chased out of Messina on the charge of having fallen in love with a nun and having tried to convince her to abandon her vows, he took refuge in Africa where, brooding over his revenge, he allied himself with the Saracens, leading their fleet to conquer Sicily, landing in Mazzara del Vallo. Here the cook, not knowing how to feed the starving troops, thought it best to use the typical ingredients of the place that he had available, namely sardines and fennel adding saffron that he had brought with him from his homeland, thus creating a truly unique dish.
Apart from what the legend says, however, it must be said that the habit of flavouring fish with wild fennel was already in use by the Greeks and Romans, while we know that pasta was probably brought to Sicily by the Arabs, as it was a good, dry supply of food for the army.
It is a Palermo tradition to prepare this exquisite dish especially for the feast of St. Joseph.