Pasta With Herbs and Sardines

The theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Herbs.  Mine was going to be a particular oregano, actually Cuban Oregano,  which grows like a weed here, a nice perennial, always available.  I'm still learning what it goes best with.  I used it to finish Mark Bittman's Pasta with Sardines, and found the dish okay, but still lacking a zip and sprightliness I was looking for, to offset the oily sardines.  When I added cilantro, it was just amazing how much the overall taste profile changed for the better.  Bittman used regular parsley, but as he notes, more for the color.  I think cilantro works both to lift  flavor as well as appearance.
Very often, by the end of the day, and the meal preparation, I am very tired.  Duh.  Who isn't?  Maybe you 20 somethings.  At any rate my dishes frequently improve at a second serving.  Since I am the Left-Over Queen (or one of them), that would be my lunch next day, which is when the cilantro got added.  Bob hates the stuff anyway.

Now, that was wonderful.  The crunch of breadcrumbs, the blah, blah, blah.  Sorry, you should just watch his video at the above link.  An understated sense of humor I so enjoy.  And, here is Mark Bittman's original recipe re-printed from the NY Times site.

Pasta with Sardines, Breadcrumbs and Capers
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup bread crumbs, ideally made from stale bread
1 onion, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound long pasta, like perciatelli
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (I am out of lemons and used my salt preserved ones)
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 cans sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish.
(Where your herbal creativity comes in.) 

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put half the oil (2 tablespoons) in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, less than 5 minutes, and then remove. Add the remaining oil and the onion to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just tender; drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Turn the heat under the onions to medium-high and add the lemon zest, capers and sardines; cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the pasta to the sardine mixture and toss well to combine. Add the parsley, most of the bread crumbs and some reserved water, if necessary, to moisten. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnishing with more parsley and bread crumbs.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

This will also go over to Ruth, intrepid founder, and our current host as well, for Presto Pasta NightsCheck out last week's Round-up for wonderful pasta recipes.


Martin Zibauer said...

Using cilantro sounds like a good idea. I tried the original Bittman recipe, too, because it looked so simple but, as you did, I found it rather flat. Salt-preserved lemons may also have added something. The grated zest distributes very evenly through the whole dish. I can imagine chopped preserved lemon giving little bursts of lemon and salt, which seems much more fun.

Sophie said...

Hello Claudia!!

Brussels calling!!
What a delightful pasta dish!

I so love sardines!!

MMMMMMMMMMMMM,...lovely food!

Ruth Daniels said...

Nothing like herbs to change up any dish. I love what you did with this one. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

Joanne said...

I love anything with capers and adding cilantro is always a good call! I bet some acid, maybe lemons, would have added some zip as well!

Claudia said...

Thanks all, and, yes Martin the preserved lemons are awesome, and usually I find myself wishing I had added even more to whatever I've put them in.

Kim said...

I can see how the cilantro would really wake up the flavors in this. I have never had sardines before, but any pasta dish is an A+ in my book ;-)

The Burmese Mom said...

I love sardines! Great choice!

Tiff said...

I am excited to give this one a whirl! I love cilantro and I have never used sardines so it will be an adventure! Looks lovely!

Carla and Michael said...

Your pasta sounds wonderful. I think I'd try it with anchovies though. Not much experience with sardines.

Giovanna said...

I love sardines! To be honest with you, I probably eat them about 3x a week and my kids will go through a couple of cans in a flash! To a good Italian girl, you can't go wrong with pasta and fish!

Debinhawaii said...

I have been wanting to try this recipe and I am noting your tip on the cilantro (one of my favorite herbs).
It looks delicious--a great pick! ;-)