Pasta with Anchovy’s Sauce and Fennels

Pasta con Salsa di Acciughe

Pasta C’Anciova e a Muddica


Mafalda is a women’s name and also the name of Princess Mafalda of Savoia, daughter of Vittorio Emanuele III, king of Italy. She  

Mafalda supported many charities, involved in activities to help children and sick people: Mafalda also called Reginetta, in Italian little queen and Mafaldina was very popular and well-liked by the people. A town in Molise was named in her honor, as well Sicilian bread in the shape of a twisted rope and a pasta called Mafalda, Mafaldina or Reginella. 

The Mafalda macaroni is made with durum wheat in the shape of narrow lasagna, curled on both sides and in Palermo it is exclusively used to prepare the pasta with anchovy’s sauce and rarely substituted with a different type of pasta. It is preferred because the crevices are apt to hold the sharp aromatic, zesty and salty sauce.
This inexpensive and easy to prepare dish is part of the cucina povera, the popular cooking, nevertheless it synthesizes the essence of contrasts in Sicilian cooking: the fusion of sweet and salty, pungent and mild, sharp and delicate…
In the Mafalda with anchovy’s sauce, the different tastes are combined to give birth to a traditional dish whose ingredients produce pleasant and unforgettable flavors.
The saltiness of the anchovies is opposed to the sweetness of the raisins and onions, the strong zest of garlic to the elegant flavor of the pine nuts, the sharpness of the red pepper to the delicate taste of the fennels and the crunchiness of the breadcrumbs to the soft and succulent Mafalda pasta. 


Serves 4 to 5



  • 1 lb. Margherita macaroni (narrow lasagna, curly on both sides) 
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped for the breadcrumbs 
  • 1½ cup breadcrumbs 
  • ½ lb. of wild fennels or the green foliage of bulb fennel 
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced for sauce 
  • 3 cloves of garlic, slightly crushed 
  • 8 salted fillet of anchovies rinsed. 
  • 1 tablespoon of seedless currants or raisins 
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of pine nuts 
  • 1 cup of olive oil 
  • Dry hot red peppers flakes, served on the side 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 




The Breadcrumbs
Over a medium flame, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12 inch sauté pan.
Add diced onions and sauté until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes (In some parts of Sicily onions are substituted with sugar). Stir in the breadcrumbs and keep stirring until crumbs are light golden. While stirring the breadcrumb blend in 4 additional tablespoons of olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste. Place in a container and set on the side.




The Fennels
Bring a large pot with 5 quarts of water to a boil; add fennels, 1 tablespoon of salt. Keep pot at a medium heat for 15 minutes or until fennels are tender. 
Scoop out the boiled fennels with a slatted spoon and place them on a dish to cool down.


When they are cool, chop them very fine. Save the fennel water for cooking the pasta.


The Anchovy’s Sauce
Over a medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan.
Add the sliced onions and sauté for 8 minutes or until onions are golden. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.





In a small plate, using a fork, mash the anchovies with 2 tablespoons of oil until the anchovies are reduced to a paste.
Stir the anchovies with the onion and the garlic, add the fennels, currants (or raisins), pine nuts and ¾ of a cup of the reserved water; simmer over low heat. Add pepper and taste sauce for salt which is rarely needed because of the salted anchovies.


The Pasta
Bring the reserved water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and cook the pasta following the manufactures directions. Reduce the recommended cooking time by 2 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserve a cup of water and toss the cooked pasta into the sauté pan with the sauce. Toss until pasta and sauce are well combined, add ½ of the breadcrumbs and over a low heat gently turn for about 2 minutes. If it is too dry, add some of the reserved water. Serve immediately.
Garnish each dish with some breadcrumbs, drizzle with a few drops of olive oil and offer hot red pepper flakes and the remaining breadcrumbs on the side.

    Margherita Pasta