Growing up, I didn’t know very many people who liked sardines or anchovies. I definitely didn’t eat them — but like I’ve mentioned before, I was the pickiest of eaters.
I honestly didn’t even eat them until former-roommate-turned-friend, Kristen, introduced this pasta dish to me.
Back in the day, when we lived together in that old, falling-apart row house, she and I spent a lot of time making dinners together. We’d both come home, pop open a bottle of wine (we went through a lot of wine back then), and throw something together for dinner. It was usually some sort of pasta, because we were both pretty much broke, and a little bit of pasta goes a long way.
I can’t remember where she got the recipe, but it was her go-to meal when it was her turn to cook. And it costs less than the wine, so it was a-okay for our budget.
I still make it for dinner, from time to time. And it’s the recipe that turned me on to sardines and anchovies. In fact, I sneak anchovies into a few of my recipes, just to strengthen the flavor… pesto, salad dressings, pasta sauces. You name it.
Spicy Penne with Tomatoes, Sardines and Lemon
1 lb. uncooked penne pasta
2 14-oz. cans of diced tomatoes
2 cans sardines or 3 cans anchovies
Crushed red pepper flakes
First, fill a large saucepan with your pasta, cover with a couple of inches of water, and cook pasta to your desired consistency — IMHO, al dente is best for this dish.
In a large skillet and low heat, empty both cans of tomatoes and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. I like this dish very spicy, but you can add pepper flakes to taste.
As your tomatoes heat up, peel open both cans of sardines over your sink. Using your hands, remove the spines from each of the sardines, and use your fingers to break the sardines up into chunks. Set the meat into a separate bowl. Note: this doesn’t really apply if you choose to use anchovies.
When the tomatoes are boiling, add your sardines, and use a wooden spoon or spatula to help mix them into the sauce. They should start to disintegrate. Cover the skillet, and let cook over low heat for about ten minutes. Then, squeeze the juice from one lemon, two if needed, and stir to mix completely.
Mix with the cooked penne in a large bowl, and garnish with heaps of parmesan cheese.