In August, I bought Epicurious’s special Italy issue to read on the plane to the U.K. It’s chock-full of amazing regional Italian recipes ranging from easy to labor of love. A few weeks ago, I tried the magazine’s pasta con le sarde recipe, which was originally published in Gourmet in 2009. I was pleased with the recipe’s simplicity, bold flavors and textures, and the short prep and cook time.
I also really wanted to try sardines. I’m pretty sure I’d never had them before and I figured it was time to give them a try as they play a large role in Sicilian cuisine. If, like me, you’re a little wary of sardines but want to give them a try, this is a good introductory recipe. I’m not totally sold yet, but certainly willing to keep cooking with them.
This is also a very budget-friendly recipe; the only ingredient we had to buy was the sardines – all other items are pantry staples for us.
Pasta con le Sarde
Adapted from Epicurious Italy Fall 2014, originally published in Gourmet May 2009
1 lb. spaghetti
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup drained capers, patted dry*
2 cups breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons dried dill or 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
freshly ground pepper
2 cans sardines in water**
4 garlic cloves, processed through a garlic press
Cook spaghetti in a large pot until al dente, drain, and reserve 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
While the pasta is cooking, heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry capers until they “bloom” and are just a shade darker. I had trouble knowing when this step was complete, but it didn’t seem to negatively impact the dish. Toast breadcrumbs in the same skillet, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with capers, dill, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and add sardines and garlic and cook over medium-high heat. The sardines will flake into smaller pieces; cook until golden, about 2 minutes.
Add pasta to the skillet with cooking liquid and salt and pepper. Toss until pasta is coated and slightly thickened. Top with the seasoned breadcrumb mixture and olive oil to taste. Enjoy!
*My husband thought we could’ve used more capers.
**As a sardine novice, I wasn’t prepared for the tiny, soft bones in canned sardines. I removed a few larger bones but it was too difficult to remove the littlest bones, which didn’t matter as we couldn’t taste them in the finished dish.