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Friday, November 15, 2013

Recipes: Sicilian Pasta With Sardines And Fennel

Sardines are very under-appreciated in the United States, but loved in Southern Europe.  We rarely see the delicious fresh sardines from Portugal (superb when grilled with gros grain salt and sprinkled with olive oil), and often ignore the canned variety.  Sardines are very much for fish-lovers, those of us who prefer the intense flavor of fish like mackerel and blue fish, but even for those who are not necessarily big fans, sardines blend into tomato sauce perfectly; and the combination with fennel is an Italian classic. The same is true of anchovies.  Most people who say they don’t like them, don’t even notice them when added to tomato sauce, yet they add piquancy and character.  There is good reason why Asian cooking cannot do without ‘fish sauce’ – anchovy sauce.

Pasta with Sardines and Fennel

* 1 can sardines packed in water, low sodium

* 1 can San Marzano tomatoes

* 1/2 can low-sodium tomato paste

* 1 lg. Tbsp. fennel seeds, lightly pounded

* 5-6 shakes hot red pepper flakes

* 4 Tbsp. olive oil

* 1 lg. bunch fresh parsley, chopped

* 5-6 lg. cloves garlic, chopped medium

* 1 cup red wine (ordinary table wine will do)

* salt and ground pepper to taste

* 1/2 lb. rigatoni (You can use any other whole, solid pasta like shells or penne; but rigatoni is best for picking up the thick sauce.

- Sautee the garlic in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes with the red pepper flakes and fennel seeds

- Add sardines and break up the fish; mix well with the garlic and oil; cook for another 3-4 minutes

- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, and red wine, 2 pinches salt, 5 grindings black pepper

- Simmer for about 3-4 hours, stirring often.  Taste midway in the cooking to check for taste.  You may want to add more fennel and/or salt. The sauce is done when it is thick and not watery

- Serve over rigatoni with garnish of parsley, ground pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil

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