It was a wet, cold, and dreary week. By the end of it, my refrigerator was depleted of groceries and I was in no mood to go to the store. Dinner hour was looming and I needed to make something. The pantry provided a solution. There was pasta, a decent jarred marinara sauce, and … a can of sardines. Here’s what I made:
Pasta with Sardines
4-6 ounces pasta (I used fusilli)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon of dried chili flakes, or whatever dried spice you prefer
1 24-ounce jar of marinara sauce
1 can of boneless, skinless sardines in oil, drained, cut in bite-size pieces
Boil water for pasta in a large pot. Add the salt and pasta. Stir and cook until one minute less than al dente.
Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a pan over low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the chili flakes and cook for another minute.
Add the marinara sauce and the sardines, stir, and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let stand until the pasta is ready.
Drain the pasta, then add it to the sauce and mix well. Cook for another minute and serve.
I’ve made a version of this a few times, always using pasta, sauce, and sardines. Sometimes I omit the onion or add a diced green pepper, or nothing at all. Occasionally, I’ll use Middle Eastern spices instead of the chili flakes. Sometimes I add a tablespoon of crushed fennel seeds. It is always delicious, quick, and easy.
Sardines are considered a superfood. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a 3-ounce serving provides 2 grams of heart-healthy omega-3s, which is one of the highest levels of omega-3 and the lowest levels of mercury of any fish. They’re also a great source of calcium and Vitamin D, so they support bone health, too.
Clearly, we should be eating more sardines. But I’m not that wild about how they taste out of the can. Kind of blah. So, I wondered what I could do besides adding them to pasta and tomato sauce.
I vaguely remembered that when I first got married, some time ago, I used to make an appetizer of lemons stuffed with sardines. Sounds weird, I know. But, I must have liked it because I didn’t discard the recipe. So, I decided to revisit that dish. After making a few changes, I ended up with the result below.
Lemons Stuffed with Sardines
1 can skinless, boneless sardines, in oil, drained and mashed
6 anchovies, pounded
1 green pepper, in small dice
Watercress for serving, if desired
Cut off a thickish slice from the top of each lemon and a thin slice at the base (to allow it to stand). Set the tops aside.
Scoop out the pith and pulp from the lemons. Drain off as much of the juice as possible, into a small bowl, without damaging the shells. Drop the empty shells into iced water and leave for one hour. Drain well.
Place sardines in a small bowl. Mix with pounded anchovies, diced peppers, and lemon juice. Fill lemons with mixture. Replace tops and serve atop a bed of watercress, if desired.
So, this was tasty, somewhat dazzling in appearance, and definitely an appetizer most people have not seen before. Although, it was not a dish I could see preparing too often.
There had to be a way to make a simple lunch dish out of sardines; one that would taste great and be easy to prepare. My mother taught me how to make a pretty good tuna fish salad. So, I decided to use the same ingredients, subbing sardines for the tuna.
1 can skinless, boneless sardines, in oil, drained, mashed
1 hard-boiled egg
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 teaspoons capers
1 tablespoon sweet onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices of bread, spread with butter or mayonnaise
Place the mashed sardines in a small serving bowl. Using the large holes of a grater, grate the egg into the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Spread over the bread and enjoy!
This hit all the right notes. I can see eating this salad on a weekly basis. It is healthy, quick and easy, and delicious.