My children’s daycare provider is a retired nurse, who also happens to be an Italian grandmother.
Often, as I drop off the girls in the morning, I am greeted by the unmistakable, scrumptious fragrances of their lunches. My stomach grumbles, and I start salivating as my girls bounce into the house, and I’m sent off to work with:
“We’re having turkey meatball soup with pastina, kale and beans!”
“We’re having whole wheat pasta with sautéed zucchini, onions, eggplant in homemade gravy!”
“We’re having freshly made waffles with fresh blueberries!”
This past week, I was a bit flustered every night as I raced against bedtime(s) to prepare dinner for the girls. We had gone away over the weekend, so I did not have my usual opportunity to pre-cook in advance.
I needed something quick to prepare, that was healthy, but hearty.
Upon a quick search, I was happy to find ingredients for a quick meal. The pantry produced some sardines, capers, a jar of tomato sauce, and whole wheat linguine. The garden had some fresh onions and tomatoes. The refrigerator had garlic and a package of maitake. I was ready to cook.
Dinner was going to be linguine with a sardine, maitake and caper sauce. My kids cheered when I said “We’re going to have men-men (their nickname for long noodles) and osakana (translation: fish).”
“MEN MEN!” both girls jumped up and down, and clapped.
They then, ran into the living room to prepare their own version of dinner at their play-kitchen.
Here’s how I made this dish:
2 cans sardines in water, drained (conventional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red onions, minced
2 tbs capers, drained
Handful cherry tomatoes, or a medium tomato cut into bite-size chunks can also work
2/3 jar Trader Joe’s Basil and Tomato Marinara sauce (adjust the amount depending on your preference for more or less liquid)
1 tbs olive oil
Whole wheat linguine – enough for 2 adults. The amounts above made enough sauce for 2 adult meals – this was enough for the girls and myself. Papa was working late – and he’s not a sardine fan… he doesn’ t know what he’s missing!
Heat up the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and stir well until fragrant. Add the drained sardines (I pick out the intestines, but don’t remove skin or bones) and break the pieces up with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and capers, and mix everything together. Lower the heat and allow to simmer.
In the interim, bring a large pot of water to boil. I add two large pinches of salt. Once the water’s boiling, add the linguine, and cook until al dente.
Once the pasta’s done, I drain the pasta, reserving a ladleful of the pasta water, and stir into the sauce. Plate the pasta, and ladle the sauce. Add some freshly ground pepper or cheese if you prefer.
The girls enjoyed picking out the capers, and swirling their forks through the linguine. My mother, who watched them devour their dinners, suggested adding freshly julienned shiso to the sauce as seasoning. I’ve had a bumper crop of the fragrant herb so this certainly is a good idea!