Pasta Con Le Sarde

On April 14, 2009, in Food and Drink, by peterb

Consider the humble sardine.

Yes, yes, I’m doing it again: rehabilitating foods that odds are you, for some godforsaken reason, don’t eat. Even though these foods are awesome. I’m not going to stop anytime soon. You don’t eat prunes, so I tell you to eat prunes. You don’t eat olives, so I tell you to eat olives. You don’t eat liver, so I tell you – at least those of you without heart conditions – to eat liver.

You don’t eat sardines. You should eat sardines. Here’s a recipe that is better than most of the pasta recipes you’ve made in the past year. Unless you’re Lidia Bastianich. In which case you already know that you should be eating sardines.

This is a traditional Sicilian dish, called Pasta con le sarde, which translates to “Sardonic pasta trick” or, if you want to be accurate instead of interesting, “Pasta with sardines”.

A word on the sardines themselves. Fresh sardines are superb, light, delicious, and completely unavailable to most of us. This recipe is formulated to use store-bought, olive-oil packed sardines that have been sitting on the shelf for God knows how long. Feel free to make it with fresh sardines and let me know how it goes. But I bet it’s better my way.

To make this, you need a couple of cans of sardines, an onion, a bulb of fennel, some currants (or raisins if you don’t have currants), olive oil, some anchovies, and of course pasta. Traditionally, you’d also use some pine nuts in this recipe, but pine nuts tend to go rancid very easily: if you have a choice between using rancid pine nuts and no pine nuts at all, just skip them. Also traditionally, you would soak the currants in water for a while and then drain them before using them. But I always skip that step because I’m lazy, and I frankly don’t notice the difference.

The recipe goes like this: take the sardine oil from the can and put a few tablespoons in a saucepan. Heat it on high and toast some stale bread (1/2 cup to a cup) in the hot oil until they’re nicely browned. Remove the croutons from the oil and save for later. Lower the heat to medium.

Dice an onion and a bulb of fennel.

Add 1/2 cup of olive oil to the pan and keep the heat up. Dice an onion and sweat it until it gets soft. Add the fennel and saute for a few more minutes. Add the the currants, the anchovies, but NOT the sardines, and sauté for another 10 minutes.

While this is going on, cook some pasta. This sauce has a weird nature: it’s heavy, and it will stick nicely, so you don’t want anything too light. Spaghetti is always a good choice, but I could also see this working with bucatini. Personally, I usually use spaghetti because it will catch up the little bits of sardine and the croutons in the tangles perfectly.

A few minutes before the pasta is done, add the sardines and the croutons to the pan and give it a couple of good stirs. When the pasta is finished, drain it, add the pasta straight into the pan with your sauce, toss it, and remove to a serving bowl. Serve and eat immediately.

See? Just like that, now you like sardines.


8 Responses to “Pasta Con Le Sarde”

  1. Jason says:

    Three meat articles in a row. It’s like you’re trying to drive all your vegetarian gamer readers away.

  2. elise soroka says:

    this sounds great pete. you can get good sardines from the specialty counter at WFoods ( I know. not your favorite place and my betrayors so feel free to boycott) they arent that diffferent in that they just come in a great big can of oil are taken out an presented on a on a pleasant platter with some garnish. they do not however, sit around forever. they sometimes have fresh in the se seafood dept. but rarely.I’ve been looking for ways to eat them and sometimes make an italian type tuna salad with the good tuna in oil anchovies, capers, olives and artichoke hearts. your dish sounds better. and we will all be rich in omega 3-s hooray.

  3. Eeyore says:

    Got some great sardines at Ibiza off their hot tapas menu a few months ago. They were about five times the size of canned sardines and wonderful. Of course, while we’d all planned to share the tapas around, nobody else wanted to eat the fish that stare at you but me. I didn’t even order them. I ate them though; every last one. Yum.

  4. psu says:

    The grilled sardines at Dish are better than at Ibiza. IMHO.

  5. brucey again says:

    you guys are making me hungry. A pan roasted Mackerel filet on top of that would be bootilicious. I’m gonna borrow your recipe. I think I’ll use Papardelle, cus its all big and fancy looking.

  6. brucey again says:

    Here’s a liver and pasta recipe for you:
    Sear the bird livers in a hot hot pan with olive oil and pull them out at medium rare to sit and rest.

    toss your pasta in boiling water.

    toss out the olive oil and turn the gas back on and toss in a ripe amount of butter. let it melt and get all brownsy. then toss in a tablespoon of capers. season salt and pepper and lemon juice and a rational number of little grape tomatoes. now add you pasta to the brown butter and adjust the seasoning. kill heat. add livers, parmaggiano, and arugula. plate it and eat it.

    if you feel like you can stomache it, add some blanched fava beans and serve with a glass of your favorite chiante.

  7. Laura V says:

    For some reason, canned sardines freak me out. (Probably because my father used to eat them straight out of the can when I was a kid.)

    Nat and I went to Baum Vivant a few months before it closed and had a wonderful fresh sardine dish, though. Mmm. Perhaps I should give canned another try.

  8. zp says:

    Jezus. We’re your readers. Of course we eat sardines.