Dinner Tonight: 30-minute Entrees
Sardines step out of can, into the pasta
Classic Sicilian dish calls for fresh fish. But canned sardines work beautifully
Pasta with sardines: This classic Sicilian dish of pasta with sardines calls for fresh fish. In our version, canned sardines work beautifully. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
The Sicilians have a classic dish pairing sardines with golden raisins and wild fennel, for a sweet and sour combination that plays beautifully against the rich fish. But the traditional dish calls for fresh sardines. And wild fennel, while apparently abundant on the Italian island, is nearly impossible to find here.
It seemed, though, that good canned sardines and fennel bulb could stand in. Adapting a traditional recipe from "Made in Sicily," by Giorgio Locatelli, following guidelines from a recipe using canned sardines from Epicurious.com, did the trick.
Tip: Leave out the saffron, pine nuts and fennel seed if you don't have them on hand. You'll still have a tasty dish.
Pasta with sardines
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 18 minutes
Note: Adapted from Giorgio Locatelli's "Made in Sicily" and Epicurious.com.
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup each: dry white wine, chicken broth
Pinch saffron threads, crumbled
3 cans (3.75 to 4.37 ounces each) sardines in oil, drained
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 to 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted, see note below
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, toasted, see note below
1. Place the raisins in a cup of hot water to soak, 20 minutes. Cook the spaghetti in a stockpot of well-salted boiling water until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the fennel and onion; season with a sprinkle of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, 10 minutes.
3. Add the wine and broth; allow to reduce slightly. Drain raisins; add raisins, saffron and half the sardines to the skillet. Break up the sardines into the sauce with a fork. Simmer, 1 minute. Coarsely chop remaining sardines in bite-size pieces; gently stir into the sauce along with fennel seeds.
4. Drain the pasta, saving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Add the spaghetti to the skillet, tossing with the sauce and adding a little pasta water to loosen the sauce, if needed. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and breadcrumbs.
Note: For pine nuts, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, watching carefully to prevent burning. For breadcrumbs, toast, also in a dry skillet, until crispy.
Per serving: 577 calories, 17 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 80 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 554 mg sodium, 6 g fiber.