Linguini Fini with Sardines & Pickled Cherry Peppers

I continue to be amazed by the talent and creativity I see in the blogs I visit. Often, having spent the day in an assortment of unplanned, often unnerving, activities, the dinner hour is approaching and the blogger has absolutely no idea of what to prepare. A look in the pantry, a scan of the fridge, and within minutes a delicious dinner is on the table while a tasty dessert awaits on a countertop. OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration but the point remains. Many of you can create fabulous dinners on a moment’s notice, using only what you find in your kitchen and pantry. This is so not me. If caught with nothing planned for dinner, I can scan my cupboards or stare into the fridge for hours and I’ll end up with the same 2 dishes: a sandwich from a previous night’s roast and, when there’s no roast, some sort of pasta. Today’s recipe is a case in point.

You see, this is not the recipe I had planned to share today but before I get into that, please take a look at the image to the right. Examine that box very closely. Everybody done? Good. Now, do you see anything that would lead you to believe that there are anchovies in that box? Anything at all. Of course not. So, why did I buy it, mistakenly believing it contained white anchovies — the ingredient that was supposed to be featured in today’s recipe? Worse yet, that box sat in my cupboard for 2 weeks, visible to me countless times during that period. Yet, incredibly, it wasn’t until I opened the tin late last week that I realized my mistake — and then I had an open tin of sardines to deal with and nothing for dinner or today’s post.

Now, I could have taken the easy route and just substituted the sardines for the anchovies but that would have cost me a perfectly good pasta recipe that uses white anchovies, as you’ll see in the weeks ahead. No, I had to think of something else and, thankfully, I remembered an ingredient Mario Batali had used recently. So, I went to my stash of canned goods, specifically the hot cherry peppers I pickled last September, and the result was today’s dish, a pasta much like an Aglio e Olio.

To recap, a typical aglio e olio uses olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to dress a spaghetti-like pasta that’s topped with grated cheese and freshly cracked black pepper. The red pepper flakes give the dish a nice even heat that can be as bold as you like, unlike today’s dish, where the chopped pickled peppers give bursts of heat, as well a touch of acid from the pickling liquid. Of course the sardines give this dish an entirely different flavor profile from your everyday aglio e olio and, because of them, grated cheese should not be served with this dish. So, to top the dish off, I used the Bartolini breading mixture that was lightly toasted beforehand. And the result? Well, it was so good that I’ve promised Zia I’d prepare it for her when I visit next.

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 Linguine Fini with Sardines & Pickled Cherry Peppers Recipe 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb linguine fini (cappellini, spaghetti, linguine, or trenette may be used)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pkg. {3.75 oz (105 g)} of skinless & boneless sardines, drained & roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, diced or grated – divided
  • 4 pickled cherry peppers, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • reserved pasta water

Directions

  1. Make the bread crumb topping:
    1. In a small mixing bowl, combine 1 diced/grated garlic clove, bread crumbs, and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Season lightly with salt & pepper. Mix thoroughly.
    2. In a small frying pan over med-high heat, lightly toast the bread crumb mixture. Do not allow to get too dark or it will ruin the dish. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. Add the pasta and stir.
  3. In a large frying pan over med heat, add the remaining olive oil. Once hot, add remaining garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
  4. Add the pickled peppers to the pan and continue sautéing for another minute before adding the sardines. Continue sautéing until the pasta has cooked 2 minutes less than the package’s cooking instructions indicate for al dente. If you’ve timed everything correctly, you should sauté the sardines for no more than 5 minutes before the pasta is ready.
  5. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
  6. Add pasta to the pan containing the sardines and peppers. Gently toss to evenly coat the pasta. If too dry, add enough pasta water to create a sauce. Continue to sauté until the pasta is al dente, 1 to 2 minutes more.
  7. Remove from heat, add 2/3 of the bread crumb mixture, and toss.
  8. Place on a serving platter and garnish with remaining 1/3 of the bread crumb mixture.
  9. Serve immediately.

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Variations

If you’re one who enjoys cooking Italian dishes, preparing aglio e olio is a dish you really should learn. The basic recipe involves using garlic-infused oil and red pepper flakes to dress pasta but that’s just the start. Today’s dish swapped out the red pepper flakes for hot cherry peppers and added sardines to the mix. You may wish to keep the pepper flakes and use some vegetable(s) instead of the sardines. No? How about some shrimp? What you choose to add or subtract from the garlic-flavored oil is totally up to you but the result is sure to be a flavorful dish of pasta. Best of all, you can go from staring into your refrigerator to dining at your table in under 20 minutes.

Notes

To be sure, not everyone has pickled cherry peppers in the pantry. Most groceries do carry them, however, but you could use peperoncini instead. Still, no matter which pepper you use, I suggest tasting one beforehand to see if its level of heat is to your liking.

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It’s déjà vu all over again … 

Having referred to it a number of times, I’ve little choice but to feature our Aglio e Olio recipe as this week’s Blast from the Past. The dish couldn’t be easier to prepare and the post contains a favorite memory of my Uncle. You can read both by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Grilled Salted Cod

Grilled Salted Cod

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