½ cupolive oil70 gm (1 cup)breadcrumbs, made from day-old sourdough bread1 kg (about 6) baby bulbs of fennel, trimmed (fronds reserved) and quartered2onions, finely chopped1 kgsardine fillets, boned and cut into 2cm pieces40 gm (¼ cup)pinenuts40 gm (¼ cup)sultanas, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes, drained and coarsely chopped8threads of saffron500 gmspaghettini
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan, add breadcrumbs and stir over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes or until crisp and golden, then drain on absorbent paper and cool.
Cook fennel in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 20 minutes or until tender, then strain fennel through a colander placed over a bowl, reserving cooking water. Drain fennel well, pressing to extract as much water as possible, then finely chop and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan, add onions and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until just golden. Add chopped sardines and cook for 1-2 minutes or until cooked through, then add fennel and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in pinenuts, sultanas and saffron, add 1 cup reserved fennel cooking liquid, then season to taste and combine well.
Meanwhile, add enough water to remaining reserved fennel water to make 5 litres, then add 4 tbsp sea salt, bring to the boil and cook pasta until al dente, then drain. Return pasta to same pan, add sardine and fennel sauce and reserved coarsely chopped fennel fronds and combine well. Season to taste, then divide among bowls, sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs and serve immediately.