PASTA CON LE SARDE, an iconic Sicilian recipe from Palermo. Cooked at Slow Food Festival Melbourne

Slow Fish Festival: Save Our Seafood


To those of you who attended the successful event at Spotswood – Kingsville, Slow Fish Festival: Save Our Seafood.

As promised, here is an update of the recipe Pasta con le Sarde I cooked at this event.

There are already two posts about this recipe:

PASTA CON LE SARDE (Pasta with sardines, from Palermo, made with fennel, pine nuts and currants)

PASTA CON SARDE – the baked version, Palermo, Sicily

Here are some useful photographs to compliment the recipes:


Wild fennel plant.


Wild fennel shoots.


Packing wild fennel for the winter season – used to flavour the pasta water.


Extra flavour with sachet of fennel seeds. It can be removed when you also remove the boiled wild fennel.


Wild fennel sold in bunches at Catania Market.

wild fennel_0011

You will need a plate to serve it. This is an Alessi Plate ( not THE Alessi, the Sicilian Alessi) They use old stencils, colours and images from the past to decorate their plates.


Recipe in Sicilian Seafood Cooking, Tim White from Books For Cooks (Melbourne) may have a couple of this book left for sale.


Timballo, made with left over Pasta con Sarde


Reference was made to  Il Gattopardo – The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampadusa. Film made by Visconti, an historical epic, based on Lampedusa’s novel.


Carne Aglassata – Glazed tongue in onion sauce

Carne Aglassata is a Sicilian recipe  and it is meat braised slowly with plenty of onions. The resulting sauce, once reduced, acts as a glaze for the meat.


Carne Aglassata is reputed to have been one of the typical dishes of Palermo as cooked by the Monsù – derived from the word monsieur – a French or French-trained cook employed in the homes of the wealthy in Sicily (and southern Italy) during the 1800s’ and early 19th centuries.

Some of the Monsù were French but others were Piedmontese, as Piedmont had been under French control in the late 1700s and early 1800s. These cooks influenced the local Sicilian cuisine by adding flair to what usually resulted in elaborate French inspired dishes. They were show off dishes and were often very decadent and rich; some are described in The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa which gives an account about the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento .

For some reason that I have never been able to comprehend, my father who had never cooked for the family when we lived in Italy regularly cooked lingua (tongue) aglassata when we first came to Australia. The standard recipe for aglassata is for carne (meat) and it is usually for the yearling cut called the girello or silverside.

He cooked this on a Sunday morning – we had the sauce with rigatoni or penne for lunch and the meat for main course. Most of the sauce was used to dress pasta and some of the sauce was reserved for the tongue.Sometimes he added peas during the last stages of the cooking. Obviously you could also include the tongue in the sauce as the dressing for the pasta.


Lard is usually used for the cooking of Carne aglassata – I used olive oil to cook it. Because tongue can be quite fatty I cooked the dish the day before and skimmed off the fat the next day. I also cut off the back part of the tongue which goes into the throat because this part is also quite fatty.

I then added about 1 tablespoon of lard when I reheated it – the lard helps to make the sauce glossy.



One ox tongue, about 4 large onions, 1 glass of white wine, rosemary and sage, salt, pepper, about ½ cup altogether of extra virgin olive oil and lard (pig fat).

To peel the tongue:
Wash it really well- I used a vegetable brush to scrub it. You can even use a clean kitchen brush to scrub it.
Place it in a saucepan and cover it with cold water, cover the lid and boil it until the skin turns white. This took about 30 minutes.
Drain it and peel the skin off while it is still hot. The skin is very thick and will come off easily.


Select a saucepan that will hold the tongue comfortably but that will not need a large amount of water to cover it.
Slice the onions, place them in a saucepan with the oil and herbs, salt and pepper. Add some water, just to cover the tongue. Cover the saucepan with a lid and slowly simmer the tongue for about 2 hours.
Add the white wine, cover and continue to cook it for another 30 minutes.
Place the saucepan in the fridge overnight and skim off the fat the next day.
Remove the tongue and heat the sauce on high heat to thicken the sauce. Add about a tablespoon of lard while it is thickening, this helps to gloss the sauce.
Slice the tongue and return it to the sauce to heat. Use it to dress the pasta or as meat.

I pressed the leftover tongue for another occasion.