For the longest time I snubbed my nose at the idea of canned fish. Sure, I enjoyed the occasional tuna salad on crackers as a child, but when I had my first taste of a seared tuna steak there was no way I would go back to the can. How wrong I was! It all started with a recipe from Mark Bittman, a pasta made with canned sardines, sautéed onions and garlic, topped with parsley and bread crumbs. Flash forward a year and I am inAzerbaijan, starved for protein like some jackal. I occasionally buy beef or mutton from the butchers, but the quality is mixed at best, and I do not trust buying the stuff in summer. The mere sight of the slowly rotting pieces of meat dangling with flies swarming sends shivers down my spine. There is chicken; however, I am getting pretty tired of the stuff. Whenever I walk around the local supermarket I stop and look at the canned fish and debate for a good minute or so whether or not it is worth the risk. Just like the beef and mutton the quality of fish can be mixed, especially if the fish is locally sourced. I love fish, but the muddiness of the local sturgeon made me throw up a little bit.
However, one day I went for it. I sautéed some onions and garlic, throwing in the canned sardines and tossed it with some spaghetti, finishing it with parsley and bread crumbs. And it tasted amazing. There was the meatiness I crave and the brininess of the sea. Additionally, this dish is made with minimal ingredients, and can be thrown together in the time it takes for pasta to cook. I have tried a few different brands, and I can vouch for a brand called Kaiga. It is imported from Latvia, and I suppose the frigid waters that border the country provides for some tasty fish. Sardines can have a tendency to have a strong fishy flavor, since it is an oily fish, as opposed to white fish like cod. So if you are unused to oily fish, I recommend buying canned sardines in tomato sauce. The acidity of the tomatoes masks the fishiness, while adding a nice acidity. This dish offers everything I look for when I am down to my last manat: tasty, cheap, and quick.
- 1 can of canned sardines, with or without tomato sauce
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced finely
- 500g pasta
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped finely
- ½ to 1 cup bread crumbs.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and start cooking the pasta.
- Sauté garlic and onions for a few minutes, until the onions have softened.
- Add the canned sardines, and mix, being careful not to break up the sardines up too much. Let the sauce thicken for a few minutes, and toss in the pasta. Mix in the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper as needed. Top with the bread crumbs.