Fabio Trabocchi of Washington, D.C.'s Fiola proves that fish from a tin has much more potential than a tuna fish sandwich in this salty, savory pasta. He infuses olive oil with fresh garlic, then builds flavor with Espelette, chives and tomato-packed sardines. The final result is a light yet rich sauce with layers of briny and herbal depth. Top it off with crunchy Marcona almonds and fresh dill, and you have yourself an easy pasta dinner.
As always, it's important to salt the pasta water, because, as Trabocchi says, it's the only opportunity to properly season the pasta. For lighter sauces such as this one, go heavier on salting the boiling water, as opposed to the seasoning the finished dish.
To learn more, read "The Tin Man."
Almond, Dill and Sardine Bucatini
Recipe adapted from Fabio Trabocchi, Fiola, Washington, D.C.
Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
One 4½-ounce tin sardines in tomato sauce
⅓ cup good olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 teaspoons Espelette, divided
3 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
½ pound bucatini
½ cup roasted and salted Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
¼ cup finely chopped dill, plus more to garnish
1 lemon, finely zested and juiced
Flaky salt, to finish
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Lay the sardines on a paper towel and, working one at a time, use a sharp paring knife to fillet each fish from head to tail (see the video). Remove and discard the fish bones and reserve the sardine fillets and tomato sauce.
3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and garlic, and cook, stirring often until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of the Espelette and continue to cook until the garlic is soft and translucent (without browning), 2 minutes more. Stir in the chives, half of the sardines and the remaining 1 teaspoon of Espelette; remove from heat and season with a pinch of salt.
4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until almost al dente, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
5. Add the reserved tomato sauce to the sauté pan and return to medium-high heat. Add the pasta, almonds and dill, and thin out the sauce with ½ cup of pasta water, cooking 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in ¾ of the lemon zest and the remaining sardines. Cook until the sauce is mostly reduced, another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the sauce consistency and season with pasta water, salt and lemon juice.
6. Divide the pasta between 2 bowls and sprinkle the remaining lemon zest over top. Garnish with a pinch of flaky salt and dill, and serve.