Recipe Redux: Linguine con Sarde

Dinner:  October 2, 2007

“Snacking on sardines.”

It was an innocent little text message, sent out over Twitter by my husband, but it got me craving those savory little fish in the worst way. Though some of you probably can’t imagine sardines being a crave-worthy food, I’ve been completely smitten with them since my first taste (Prune restaurant, birthday dinner, sardines with Triscuits, mustard and cornichons – simply perfect). I knew we had a couple of tins in the pantry at home, and we had one bunch of baby fennel lingering in the crisper, so I scrapped my previous plan for dinner and put together one of my favorite fall-back pasta dishes – linguine with sardines, fennel and tomato, also known as “Linguine con Sarde.”

The last time I made this dish I was sort of going through the motions, so I did a few things differently this time. While my pasta water came to a boil, I sautéed garlic in olive oil, then added my sliced fennel bulb and a bit of salt and let it soften and begin to caramelize. I added a pinch of red chile flakes, one tin of sardines (minus the oil they were packed in), and a pint of tiny Super Sweet 100 tomatoes, gently stirring everything together. I added a hefty splash of white vermouth, the juice of one lemon, and a handful of chopped fennel fronds and let the sauce bubble away while I cooked a pound of linguine. When it was just short of al dente, I added about 3/4 of the pasta to the sauce along with a couple of small ladles of the starchy pasta water and gently tossed everything through. When the pasta had finished cooking in the sauce, I plated it, adding a sprinkling of toasted bread crumbs, a grating of lemon zest and a few more fennel fronds to each bowl.

While I think last night’s version of this dish could have used a touch more salt, Mike and I both agreed it was really good – the lemon was a great substitute for the sherry vinegar in my original dish, and the addition of the fennel fronds and zest at the end really brought all the flavors together. Think you don’t like sardines? This simple pasta dish just might make you change your mind.

24 thoughts on “Recipe Redux: Linguine con Sarde

  1. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hi Lori Lynn – thank you! We usually have King Oscar sardines in the pantry, so that was what I used last night, and they’re very tasty and easy to find. The Morgada Portuguese sardines I used the first time I blogged this dish were even tastier, so if you can find those, I’d definitely recommend them. Probably just taste some different varieties of sardines packed in olive oil and choose your favorite!

  2. Ed Bloom says:

    It’s best to use true sardinia from the Mediteranean Ocean – just look for a packing point that is in that area. Since the USA FDA now allows any small fish packed by anyone to be labeled Sardines, I had purchased many worthless tins until I learned this secret to great tasting sardines

  3. OH FABULOUS! I’m going to have to trick Lorean into trying it (my boyfriend). Thank you for the awesome looking recipe! I love all of your foods.

  4. I love your dish; honestly I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t like sardines. I would however buy spicy sardines and use the oil it was packed in, heh heh.

  5. Jennifer Hess says:

    Toni – Thank you! Let me know how it works out for you. 🙂

    Mark – Thanks! I think our Siamese would be very upset with me if I used the oil in the dish – she isn’t big on treats of any kind, but she absolutely ADORES sardine oil!

  6. Ooh. We can get hold of really good Spanish tinned sardines quite easily, not to mention fresh ones from Cornwall. How would you do this with fresh sardines? Would it be worth it, or would it be better just to devil them and grill ’em? Decisions, decisions…

  7. Jennifer Hess says:

    You know, Stu, I haven’t tried this with fresh, but I would imagine you could just clean and bone them and let them cook just a minute or two longer in the sauce? Our seafood market gets gorgeous fresh wild Portuguese sardines from time to time, so I may have to test this theory!

  8. Joy says:

    Toward the end of the recipe you talked about adding the fronds of the fennel and zest. I don’t see zest listed. Was it from the rind of the lemon that you used?

  9. art meyer says:

    i love the brunswick brand crush up with a fork after they are drained add vinegar
    and lots of chopped onions make a sandwich. I like enough vinegar so it soaks the bread a little .

  10. alicia says:

    Also, a must try: Can or two of sardines, any of you favorite marinara sauce (something with peppers for spice), lots of capers, can of sliced black olives (optional), cayanne for extra kick, and penne pasta. So good! I had a similar dish at an Italian restaurant in Little Italy, San Diego, CA. I went home and tried to recreate it. These are basically the ingredient and it makes one great dish. I believe this dish and it’s contents are Sicilian in orgin.

  11. Jennifer Hess says:

    meg – Thanks!

    Hi Joy – It’s toward the end of the paragraph before 😀

    Art – YUM – I love anything with vinegar, and that sounds great.

    alicia – Oh, wow, those are all ingredients I love! I’ll have to keep that recipe in mind!

  12. Char says:

    You said you added 3/4 of the pasta to the simmering sauce … what happened to the other 1/4 of the pasta?

  13. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hi Char – generally when I cook pasta, particularly if it’s something I’m going to cook short of al dente and then finish in the sauce, I cook a little extra. I then cook and freeze the remaining par-cooked pasta for to add to a quick lunch or dinner for one or two of us. It reheats better than leftover fully-cooked pasta, I have found. 🙂

  14. Ang says:

    Great recipe. I would often eat teh sardines out of the can- having thought of them as only a snack. Thanks for the variation. I know I will enjoy my saridines a lot more often than I have in the past.

  15. Salvatore says:

    i was raised on this dish as a child, some 70 or so years ago as we are from Sicily. We ate this on St. Josephs Day and called it pasta con sarde. Grandma always used percatelli instead of linguine. I can’t remember the name of the canned sardines, maybe progresso made it, cant’t remember it now, but it is sold in specialty stores, for St.
    Josephs . Wonderful dish anytime.

  16. Salvatore says:

    Second comment. I forgot to mention that we did not use parmagiano cheese on this dish, we toasted unflavored bread crumbs and spread that on top of the pasta. We call it modenica. spelling could be corrected.,

    sal riggi

  17. Char says:

    Thanks Jennifer. One more question … since I haven’t ever done much with sardines except eating them with crackers, I take it you clean the bones out before you add them to the sauce???

    Alicia, Do you, by chance, remember which restaurant you had that dish at in Little Italy???

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