Pasta con sarde, northern style

When we went to Sicily for a friend’s wedding this May, we stayed in Zafferana Etnea at a guesthouse run by a recently retired chef. Antonino missed the action in the kitchen since he had been forced to hand over the restaurant to his son due to a bad back. He carried on however, to cook for his guests in his kitchen, so the first night we arrived, tired after getting lost many times along the way, we accepted his offer to eat at home.

For 20 euros we got a feast: antipasti, pasta and main course, followed by ice cream and liquor. All washed down with lovely wines from Etna. And it was that night I tasted the best pasta con sarde ever: fresh sardines, chopped fennel leaves, pine nuts, raisins, pistachios and roasted breadcrumbs served with al dente penne pasta.

This is in no way a dish that I could make in London in autumn. But it was with that texture in mind that last night I made my own. I used canned sardines instead of fresh ones, chopped them thinly and let them cook with garlic, parsley, chives and a small cauliflower head. I added salt, pepper and  a pinch of smoked paprika to the sauce. And on the side I toasted some breadcrumbs with garlic and parsley. When the pasta was cooked, I tossed it in the sauce and added some creme fraiche, before sprinkling it with the breadcrumbs.
Garlic, sardines, and breadcrumbs: those were was the only links with that memorable spring supper in Sicily. Yes it was a poor imitation. Not even an imitation. But it worked. Oh yes it worked.

 

Serves 2:

Half a can sardines in olive oil, with their own oil added to the hot pan.

1 clove garlic, chopped

half a bunch of chopped parsley leaves

a small bunch of freshly chopped chives

1 small cauliflower head, florets crumbled into the pan

smoked paprika to taste

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

1 more clove of garlic, thinly chopped

the rest of the chopped parsley

200g kamut pasta

half a tub of creme fraiche.

 

health score: 6

Carolina Stupino

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