The first time I made this recipe, I used fresh sardines as directed by Giorgio Locatelli’s recipe. Using my new-found knife-skills obtained on a Leith’s cooking course, I very proudly gutted and filleted the sardines ready to make the sauce. I was at my parent’s house at the time and, whilst I skipped on back to London, sardine fillets in hand, left them with the delight of a wheelie bin filled with fish guts and bones. As you can imagine, a couple of days later I was less than popular as the aroma of rotting fish started to fill their garage!
Luckily, the meal that resulted made the stench of rotting fish totally worthwhile (though my parents would argue otherwise). Gently sweated onions combine with tomato puree, a splash of white wine, fennel seeds, anchovies, the sardines, toasted pine nuts and some sultanas, which plump up delightfully as they cook. Topped off with some toasted breadcrumbs, this is a very very good pasta dish. Unfortunately it’s not the most photogenic I’m afraid!
We’ve since eaten this on countless occasions as it’s a great speedy and cheap supper that helps us along the way to eating more fish and healthy omega 3 oils. Being always on the hunt for a short-cut, I’ve made a few changes to the original recipe to speed things up.
The most important one is to use canned sardines to avoid the effort of filleting fresh sardines and the resulting less than pleasing odours in your bin! I also tend to use anchovy paste in place of fresh anchovies (I’m not a big fan so never manage to use up the rest of the bottle/tin). I’ve reduced the olive oil included from 120ml to 30ml/2 tablespoons and leave out the saffron altogether as I think the rest of the dish rather overpowers it. If I’m feeling lazy I also sometimes forego the toasted breadcrumbs, though always miss them as they add a wonderful bit of texture to the dish.
Pasta Con Le Sarde
Adapted from the original recipe by Giorgio Locatelli
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 anchovy fillets in oil or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
50ml white wine
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 x 120g tin sardines in tomato sauce (or 8 fresh sardine fillets)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, soaked in a little water for about 15 minutes or longer if you have time
100g toasted breadcrumbs
30g toasted pine nuts
300g spaghetti or other pasta
1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Gently cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes until the are soft and translucent. Add the anchovies or anchovy paste and cook for a minute until they melt into the onions.
2. Turn the heat up and add the white wine, letting it sizzle away for a couple of minutes to reduce down.
3. Meanwhile put your pasta on to cook.
4. Add the tomato puree, drained fennel seeds, sultanas, and sardines to the pan, gently breaking up the fillets with your wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce is looking a little thick for your liking, you can add a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water to thin it down. Stir through the pine nuts.
5. When cooked, drain your pasta and either stir the sauce through it or serve it on top (whilst I did the latter in the photos, it’s much more delicious stirred through in my opinion). Top with a scattering of toasted breadcrumbs and serve immediately.