"It tastes a bit like clam chowder on pasta," came the observation after I'd served this to my fiancée. When that comment was met with silence—the silence of a cook's slightly bruised ego—her follow-up went, "But I mean that as a good thing!"
I aspire to greater culinary heights than stew on noodles, so I tucked into my portion to come up with a better description of this admittedly unusual pasta. But she was exactly right: This tastes just like clam chowder. And it really was a good thing.
Not that there are any clams to be found—just the ultrahealthy and ultracheap sardine, onions, and a little milk which almost melt to combine as a gently flavored and slightly thick sauce. It coats the pasta beautifully. As per the recommendation of Food & Wine magazine, where I found the recipe, we had it with a nicely acidic white wine, which highlighted the brininess of the sardines. And if the little canned buggers scare you off, keep in mind they are finely chopped and softened in the milk, giving up a lot of their fishiness and adding a luxurious flavor.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- One 4-ounce can olive-oil-packed
- 1 cup whole milk
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound spaghetti
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook gently for 20 minutes until very soft and just beginning to turn golden.
In the meantime, drain, bone and finely chop the sardines. Bring a pot of salty water to boil.
When the onions are cooked, add the sardines and a splash of water to the onions and heat through. Add the milk and bring to a slight boil, then turn the heat to a simmer and cook until the sardines melt and the sauce thickens, 5 to 10 minutes.
Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add to the sauce, reserving some pasta water in case it gets dry. Toss to coat, season with salt and lots of pepper, and serve.