Chef Recipes

The Authentic Pasta with Sardines According to Giorgio Locatelli: A Sicilian Classic "by the Chef"

Alessandra Meldolesi
copertina pasta con le sarde locatelli

Pasta with sardines is a summertime classic, perfect to cook between March and September when small bluefish and wild fennel are plentiful in the Sicilian countryside. This is the version from the renowned chef based in London, who dedicated his book Made in Sicily to the island's cuisine.

The Story

Giorgio Locatelli was born in Vergiate, a town in the province of Varese, and has been running  Locanda Locatelli in London since 2002. However, he's always had a passion for Sicilian cuisine, dedicating his book Made in Sicily to its iconic recipes. He tells the story of a renowned American art critic, who, after returning from Sicily, asked him to recreate a dish that had captivated him: pasta with sardines.

cover made in sicily

No problem: Locatelli headed to the kitchen and spoke with Rino, his sous chef from Sciacca. There were fresh sardines in the fridge, and he had just returned from the island with a stash of wild fennel. The dish was a hit, so much so that every year since, Locatelli has received a Christmas card recalling the best pasta with sardines ever.

The dish

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"For me, it's a dish that encapsulates Sicily: the Arab-influenced combination of sultana raisins, pine nuts, and saffron (you need a good amount of it) reflects the island's history, and these ingredients have been used since ancient times," the chef explains. He also mentions the breadcrumb topping popular in Palermo, and a variation called "sarde a mare," which doesn't contain fish. For the perfect pairing, Locatelli suggests a crisp white wine from Sicily's native grape varieties.


pasta alle sarde giorgio locatelli

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 200g of bucatini
  • 8 fresh sardine fillets
  • 3 salted anchovies or 6 oil-packed anchovies
  • 30g of sultana raisins
  • 30g of pine nuts
  • A pinch of saffron (about 20 threads)
  • 3 sprigs of finely chopped wild fennel (or 1 teaspoon of rehydrated fennel seeds)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 50ml of white wine
  • 2 teaspoons of tomato paste or 1.5 tablespoons of tomato sauce
  • 100g of bread crumbs
  • 120ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Rinse and dry the salted anchovies, removing the backbone, or drain the oil-packed ones.

Toast the bread crumbs in a dry skillet over medium heat until they turn a deep golden color, being careful not to burn them.

Heat half of the olive oil in another skillet and add the onion. Cook until softened without browning, then add the anchovies and let them melt. Deglaze with the white wine and let it evaporate, then add the tomato paste and bring to a boil, adding water as needed to create a sauce. Incorporate the sardines, raisins, pine nuts, saffron, and fennel. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper, mix gently, and let it cook for 10 minutes.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt, then add the pasta and cook it one minute less than indicated, keeping it al dente. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

Toss the pasta with the sardine sauce, adding the rest of the olive oil and a little cooking water if needed. Sprinkle with the toasted bread crumbs before serving.


Locanda Locatelli

8 Seymour St, London W1H 7JZ, United Kingdom

Phone: +44 20 7935 9088


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