Sardines seem to be having a moment in the sun. They're not just an easy-to-prepare bachelor food, they're also, apparently, a health food—just see Alton Brown.
But I'm in it for the flavor. Gather a mess of Mediterranean ingredients and go to town. Chop up some pitted black olives, sweet and tangy sundried tomatoes, and fennel to complement the pungent fish. Throw in a bunch of peppery arugula leaves for good measure. Open the sardine can over a plastic bag, drain out the stinky oil, and dispose of the can immediately.
The mix of ingredients is salty, fresh, and pungent, and the sardines are fishy, but in a welcome way. Tasting this dish, I was converted into a sardine lover. If you'd like to join the cult, bookmark this to make in the early days of 2011, when a flavorful, yet healthful and cheap pasta sounds just about right.
Shopping List: ¼ cup black olives, $0.50; ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, $1; One 4-ounce can skinless boneless brisling sardines in oil, $1.50; ¾ lb linguine, $0.90; about 2 ounces fennel, $0.75 (prorated); 1 ounce baby arugula, $1; 1 lemon, $0.60; 2 tablespoon pine nuts, $0.50 (prorated).
Pantry Items: olive oil, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper.
Total (for 2 servings): $6.75
About the authors: Phoebe and Cara are the co-founders of Big Girls, Small Kitchen, a food and cooking website for twenty-something cooks looking for user-friendly, affordable ways to navigate their kitchens. They have a heated, decade-long rivalry about whose Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie is the best. Their book, Big Girls, Small Kitchen, will be published in the spring of 2011 by William Morrow. Visit their blog here.
- ¼ cup pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1 can boneless skinless brisling sardines in oil, drained
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup finely minced fennel bulb
- 2 cloves garlic, minced with salt
- 1 large handful baby arugula
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- Red pepper flakes
- freshly ground black pepper
- juice of 1 lemon
- ¾ lb linguine
In large bowl combine olives, sundried tomatoes, sardines, olive oil, fennel, garlic, arugula, and 1 tablespoon of pine nuts. Add red pepper flakes to taste, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Squeeze half of the lemon, and toss to combine, breaking up sardines slightly (you still want them in chunks, not pulverized). Set aside for 30 minutes.
Bring large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add linguine. Cook until al dente according to package directions, about 11 minutes. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water and drain in colander.
Scoop linguine into bowl with sardine mixture. Toss to coat, drizzling in reserved water as needed to help sauce coat strands. Top with remaining pine nuts, juice from remaining half lemon, and freshly ground pepper.