January 31, 2011

Sicilian-Style Sardine Spaghetti

Sardine Pasta
Originally uploaded by Dapper Lad Cycles
I thought I didn't like sardines. Not that I'd ever tried them. I just had an expectation of dislike. Probably because I lumped them into the category of "weird-sounding fishy things" like baccala, lutefisk, and pickled herrings. I'm still not sure I'll try any of those.

Sardine Pasta Prep
Originally uploaded by Dapper Lad Cycles
But it turns out sardines are quite delicious, in addition to being good for you. AND they have a "best choice" rating from the Monterey Bay Acquarium's Seafood Watch program. That's just what I'm looking for--a double win. (Bonus fact: the acquarium also says they are part of the herring family! Maybe someday I'll try pickled herring after all...nah.)

A huge thank you to Ezra Caldwell, aka "fast boy," for sharing this recipe. My family makes a similar pasta, although it is nothing more than anchovies, breadcrumbs, and olive oil. I think I'll have to make it for Galen and share it with you all soon...especially since I've got a couple tins of 'chovies in the pantry. It would have taken us years to try sardines because I just don't see many recipes that call for them (let's face it, they lack a certain sexiness, unlike sea scallops or halibut). But Ezra's amazing fast cooking video (find it here) made the little fishes look super tasty. Lo and behold, we made a special trip to Mutual Fish and procured some. (They were frozen; next time, I'm hoping to find some fresh.)

Sardine Pasta Prep
Originally uploaded by Dapper Lad Cycles
Sardine Pasta a la Ezra
(find Ezra's video and instructions here)
Serves 4 (or 2, with leftovers for lunch)

4 plump sardines (ideally fresh), cleaned, descaled but skin on
1/3 c golden raisins
1/3 c pine nuts
1 T veg oil
1/2 lb cherry or grape tomatoes
2 T olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
1 c Italian parsley, chopped
3/4 lb capellini
toasted breadcrumbs

Clean and descale sardines if necessary (or have your fishmonger do it for you). Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Grill up your little fishes, a few minutes per side. Remove and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, flake flesh off the bones in one long strip, from head to tail. Reserve meat and discard skeletons.

Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot tap water. Soak for at least 10 minutes, then drain.

In a large saute pan, add the pine nuts and toast over medium-low heat. Shake pan very frequently to avoid burning. Remove nuts when they've gotten toasty brown; set aside.

In the same pan, add breadcrumbs and toast as necessary (shaking regularly). Remove and set aside.

Wipe out the saute pan, then heat the vegetable oil over medium-high until it shimmers. Add the tomatoes, and saute until they start to wrinkle and get some color. Remove and set aside. Clean the pan once more.

In a large saucepan, bring pasta water to a boil. Season with plenty of salt.

When you add your pasta to the boiling water, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Stir frequently; cook until the onion becomes translucent and slightly golden. Add the pine nuts, raisins, and flaked fish. Toss gently and heat through. At about this time, your pasta should be done. Drain it, then return it to the empty saucepan and add 2 T or so olive oil; toss to coat. Add the parsley to the saute and toss until in just starts to wilt. Toss the pasta with the sauce. Serve with a dusting of toasted breadcrumbs and scatter of tomatoes (and parmesan, if you like).

Buon appetito!


  1. I'm coming from Seomoz (thanks rand-fish). BaccalĂ  is just salt cod :) It's excellent properly stewed and you need to keep it previously in water for 48h! Serve with Polenta.


  2. Hi Gareth, thanks for stopping by! I know baccala is salt cod--my Italian grandfather loved it. I guess I would prefer to eat fresh cod since that is readily available. But you're right, I should try it, pay tribute to my heritage, and all that. =)