Not everyone likes sardines, and that’s a shame as they are one of the most nutritious things you can eat. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, Omega 3 fats, Vitamin B12 and Calcium in spades, but sardines do. This Quick Sicilian Style Sardine Pasta puts canned sardines to good use. It is a version of a classic regional dish, and a meal that can be made in 30 minutes, the time it takes for the water to boil and the pasta to cook.This truly simple yet delicious way to use canned sardines combines the sweetness of fennel and currants, the rich taste of pine nuts and the tartness of lemon to beautifully compliment the flavor of sardines. Topped with the traditional crunch of toasted breadcrumbs, the result is a quick, satisfying pasta with an unexpectedly subtle flavor. It is totally yummy. Try it.
- Preheat an oven or toaster oven to 400F. Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil.
- Meanwhile, line a small baking sheet with parchment paper, soak the currants in just enough warm water to cover for10 minutes, and if using, dissolve the saffron threads in 2 tablespoons of hot water.
- Make the breadcrumbs: To a mixing bowl, add 2 teaspoons of the olive and the homemade breadcrumbs. Toss to coat. Tip onto the prepared sheet and spread into a single layer. Toast in the oven until golden and crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool on the baking sheet.
- Meanwhile, into a large bowl put the drained sardines, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the saffron, chopped fennel leaves, lemon zest and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. With a fork, mash in the sardines, then whisk everything into a rough but well combined paste. Set aside.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook 1 minute less than packet directions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water. Drain
- Loosen the sardine mixture with 2 tablespoons of the hot pasta water and stir in the parsley. Add the pasta and toss together to combine.
- Meanwhile Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over a medium high flame in a frying pan. Add the sliced garlic, Cook until the garlic just starts to color, about 2 minutes. Add the pine nuts, and when they start to color, roughly 1 minute, add the drained currants. Cook 1-2 minutes more. Add the pasta and sardines to the pan. Toss and mix together for 2 minutes. Add a little more pasta water if needed a tablespoon at a time. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.
2 tablespoons currants
1 pinch saffron (optional)
½ cup homemade whole wheat bread crumbs (see Ann’s Tips)
¼ cup + 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 can of sardines in spring water or oil, drained
¼ cup chopped fennel leaves (see Ann’s Tips)
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 fat cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons pine nuts (see Ann’s Tips)
8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti or bucatini
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Ann's Tips and Tricks
You can coarsely crumble a thick slice or 2 of whole wheat bread with your fingers to make the breadcrumbs.
Fennel bulbs are often sold with stalks and fronds attached. This dish is a great use for them. The thicker stems can be used to flavor the pasta water, just put them into the water as you’re heating it through. If you cannot find any fennel with stems and leaves, in step 2 substitute with ½ teaspoon roughly chopped fennel seeds.
You can substitute sliced almonds for pine nuts.