This week is Pot Luck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, and this means that we get carte blanche to choose any recipe we like either from our current chef, who as I'm sure you know by now, happens to be the incredibly inspiring Yotam Ottolenghi, or any one of the seven other chefs we have previously featured at IHCC.
I actually had an Ottolenghi dish picked out weeks ago that I was going to make for this week's challenge, but somehow that didn't come to pass and I decided that today was the day to get this post out of draft. This dish is ever so slightly adapted from a Mark Bitman recipe, and is one of my favourite pasta dishes. Mark Bitman was actually the featured chef when I first joined the IHCC community, and I loved cooking his dishes. This recipe was one that I made way back then, with all good intentions for publishing it as my "Farewell to Bitman" post. Somehow, that didn't happen, and although I've made this dish several times since, the post has continued to languish in draft. Time for that to change.
This is one of those great "pantry raid" dishes, perfect for using up a few of those store cupboard ingredients - pasta, raisins (original recipe uses currants, but I prefer raisins), pine nuts and tinned sardines. On the subject of sardines, I actually prefer to use fresh, and I have included a video from YouTube here which shows just how easy they are to clean - I promise that it is totally worth the little bit of effort if you are able to get them fresh. However, the original recipe calls for tinned sardines, and they will work perfectly well if you either can't lay your hands on fresh ones or can't be bothered to clean them.
Other changes I like to make to this dish, are replacing onion with fennel - I think the "aniseed" flavour is a great complement to the fish and the raisins, and I also like to add in some chopped preserved lemon for its intensely lemony-salty hit.
This dish is incredibly quick to make - once you've prepared the fish (which is itself the work of moments), the rest of the dish pretty much comes together in the amount of time it takes to boil pasta, making it perfect for a quick, mid-week dinner.
Add to this the fact that, from both an ethical point of view and a healthy one, sardines are a great choice, and you have a win:win dish. Hope you'll try it.
Pasta with Sardines Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bitman from
Makes 2 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
6x fresh sardines
1/4 cup flour
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
250g pasta ( I used De Cecco casareccia)
handful of raisins, soaked in warm water while you prepare the sardines
handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted
1x fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 a preserved lemon (discard the flesh, and slice the skin thinly)
grated zest of 1x lemon
large handful fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
Put a large pot of water over high heat and bring to the boil.
Meanwhile, prepare the sardines as per the video above. Wash thoroughly and use a paper towel to pat completely dry.
Spread flour, seasoned with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, on a plate. Dredge the sardines in the flour, shaking off any excess, and set aside.
Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a shallow frying pan over medium heat. As soon as the oil is hot, add the sardines to the pan, and continue to cook until the fish is golden brown and almost cooked through. Remove from pan to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any surplus oil. Break into slightly bigger than bite-sized pieces.
Now liberally salt the boiling water, and add the pasta to the water. Cook according to the packet instructions until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat another tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the sliced fennel and saute until the fennel has softened - about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the drained raisins, most of the pine nuts, preserved lemon skin, sardines, and a generous grind of black pepper. (Because the preserved lemon is salty, you may find that you don't need any additional salt.) Stirring gently, combine everything well, and cook until everything is heated through and fish is cooked through.
Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan containing the fish, and add most of the chopped parsely. Toss carefully to combine and add a little of the reserved pasta water if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking
Transfer to a warm serving bowl, and sprinkle over the remaining pine nuts and parsley, and the grated lemon zest.
Delicious served immediately or at room temperature.
If you would like to get to know Mark Bitman a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...
or check out some of these great Mark Bitman cookbooks:
I'm also sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo, hosted by the very lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace.