Sicily has astounding food traditions — Dozens of dishes, all with great historical importance, embellish the Sicilian table with flavor and color. Pasta alla Norma, Caponata, Arancini, Granita, and Cannoli are just a few iconic dishes known on the island and elsewhere.
Other meals, perhaps not that well known outside Italy, have such significance that Sicilian food wouldn’t be the same without them. Amongst them, is Pasta con le Sarde.
Palermo, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean Sea, is home to this flavorful sardine dish. Pasta with sardines sounds straightforward, but it’s incredibly complex.
For starters, sardines must be fresh; there are no substitutions, so the cooks must act fast to clean and prepare the small fish for the dish, which is not available all year round.
Raisins, pine nuts, saffron, and wild fennel spouts give character and color to the dish, all key Sicilian ingredients that must be of the highest quality and are hard to find outside the island.
Only within a precise time frame, between spring and summer are sardines and the tender fennel sprouts available. Timing is part of the recipe.
Pasta is just as important. Hard durum wheat pasta, shaped like bucatini, is perfect for holding the sauce and all its flavors, although the original recipe calls for the hollow maccherroncini.
Sicilian enjoy Pasta con le Sarde from March to September, but it’s especially common in special dates.
People celebrate San Giuseppe throughout Europe every year on March 19th. Precisely the time where the markets display the freshest blue sardines, and this is no coincidence. Pasta con le Sarde is entwined with the celebration since ancient times.
Pasta con le Sarde is a celebration in itself, it’s a cornerstone for Sicilian cuisine; it tastes like the island; it transports you there with every bite. You can’t think of Sicily without thinking of this dish.
Finding Pasta con le Sarde outside Sicily is another story; sadly, it’s not seen outside Sicily very often. Few chefs master the complicated recipe, but the Netherlands is home to a few of them.
Vicio Il Mastro Pastaio, the master pasta makers, based in Amsterdam, make Pasta con le Sarde and many other authentic dishes for the most demanding palates, and the most adventurous eaters in the country: people hungry for original Italian food.
Sicilian pasta makers Simone Usenato and Vincenzo Patti are behind Vicio Il Mastro Piastraio. They are some of the few Sicilian chefs outside Sicily that honor the quintessential traditions of the island.
Vicio successfully serves authentic Sicilian food in events and private parties throughout Amsterdam, but they’re more than cooks, they’re custodians of the Sicilian cooking secrets. The chefs make everything by hand, with the best ingredients and the most labor-intensive methods.
Food can nurture your body, but it can also feed your soul. Chefs can tell histories with food, and it’s those histories you want to listen to. Some stories talk about priceless treasures.