Pasta con le Sarde

olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced, fronds reserved for garnish
3 fat cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3-4 anchovy filets
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato puree
4-5 basil leaves
dry white wine
juice of 1 lemon
red pepper flakes to taste
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 tin sardines in olive oil
Italian flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
1/2 pound spaghetti or linguine

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced fennel and cook, stirring, until fennel begins to soften. Add garlic slices and cook until fragrant and garlic begins to soften. Add anchovy filets to skillet and crush them into a paste with the back of a spoon, then stir into the fennel and garlic.

Add tomatoes, crushing with the back of the spoon until they’re broken up. Throw in the basil leaves, a glug of white wine and and the lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and golden raisins. Stir well, then add sardine filets to the pan and spoon a little sauce over them. Lower heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

At this point, set a large pot of water over high heat. When water comes to a boil add salt (I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons) and stir in the pasta. Cook until al dente.

When pasta is ready, break up sardines with the spoon and stir them into the sauce. Add pasta to the sauce along with about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, stir, and simmer until pasta has cooked through.

To serve, top with toasted bread crumbs (or a big grating of hard cheese, if you’re so inclined), and garnish with fennel fronds or parsley.

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