Pasta with Fennel, Sardines, and Pine Nuts

Pasta with Fennel, Sardines, and Pine Nuts
Photo: James Baigrie

Sardines in a pine-nut-and-fennel sauce add complex flavors and protein to this easy pasta dish.


  • 1 pound penne, trenette, or other short pasta

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • ¼ cup pine nuts

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced, plus ¼ cup green fronds

  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 2 cans (3.75 ounces each) sardines packed in olive oil

  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus 1 lemon for serving


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions, about 8 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, combine oil and pine nuts in a large saute pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until nuts are lightly toasted, 3 to 4 minutes.

  3. Add onion, sliced fennel, garlic, and salt to pan; season with pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and light golden, 9 to 10 minutes. Add sardines; stir in lemon zest and juice. Chop reserved fennel fronds; stir into mixture.

  4. Drain pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta to mixture in pan along with enough cooking water to coat; toss to combine. Divide among four serving plates; grate lemon zest over each. Serve immediately.

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