There’s something addictively delicious about this tomato sauce accented with sardines and capers. The sauce is rich in flavor and texture, and each bite is complex – robust, tangy, salty, with an undercurrent of sweetness from the onions.
I can see you, reader, pause, and either a) wince, furrow eyebrows, and wonder, “What is SHE talking about?” or b) knowingly smile, and nod, agreeing that you and I are in the sadly under-represented sardine lover’s club.
Sardines often elicit a wrinkled nose, or a “Oh, that’s so disgusting” response resulting from either a poor first encounter, a lack of a proper introduction (or opportunity), or a negative childhood experience. The sardine’s fishiness is an acquired taste, and either takes some getting used to (take a leap of faith, I promise it’s worth it!) or it’s something you simply may not enjoy.
Growing up, (as do my daughters) we ate dried sardines (niboshi), baby sardines (shirasu) and grilled sardines (iwashi), most often served whole. Whole grilled smelt (shishamo) were also often eaten as a special treat – so for me, it’s important to honor this (and other) humble fish in any way possible for myself, as well as for my family.
I drizzled olive oil into a pan, heated it up, and added a palmful of minced garlic, and a medium onion minced. I sprinkled it with a little salt, and cooked until the onion was translucent, and the oil, fragrant.
Into the cooked onion and garlic, I added a can of well-drained sardines (in water), breaking it up with a wooden spoon, as well as handful of capers, and cooked over medium heat. (If you have a tin of anchovies, you can also add a few filets – I tend to be heavy-handed with anchovies, but two or three pieces might suit your taste)
I added a pack of Pomi brand chopped tomatoes (they are in Tetra paks, and not canned – supposedly no BPA leaching), and mixed everything together, and reduced heat to low.
Once the sauce thickened, I served it over whole wheat rotini pasta, and garnished with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Of course, add salt and/or pepper to taste.