I spent half of today pacing a freezing cold dock muttering obscenities, mostly to myself. Between extinguishing small fires and shivering, I thought about how I wanted to cook the eight sardines that I had in a cooler in my trunk. I am not sure if it was the cold or the frustration, but by the time I was headed home, I knew that I would make some pasta. I also had an inexplicable need for fennel. Fennel and sardines are buddies, promise. This dish confirms that only good things happen when I give into my food cravings.
Fettuccine with Sardines and Fennel
2 lbs fresh sardines
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp minced shallots
1 large fennel bulb cored and diced
1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
1 lb fettuccine
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1. Clean and coarsely chop sardines. See the videos below for instructions.
2. Bring 6 quarts of well salted water to boil in a large pot.
3. Meanwhile, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in another large pot over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant. Add shallots and cook until translucent. Add diced fennel bulb and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the chopped sardines and cook until all of the sardine pieces are completely opaque. Remove from heat.
3. Cook the pasta 2 minutes less than what is called for on the package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
4. Fry the fresh breadcrumbs in olive oil over medium heat until they are crispy and brown.
5. Add the pasta and reserved pasta water to the fennel/sardine mixture and toss to coat over medium heat. Add 3 Tbsp of olive oil, half the fennel fronds, half the lemon zest, and half the breadcrumbs. Toss to combine. Remove from heat and top with the remaining lemon zest, fennel fronds, and breadcrumbs.
Now, I am by no means an expert in breaking down a fish. I always get the job done and I generally have some fun in the process. See below for my questionable methods.