Pasta con le Sarde relies on a mix of flavors that you wouldn’t expect to work together, yet manage to balance each other out into a heart-warming, thoroughly enjoyable plate of pasta. I’ve even witnessed admitted sardine haters reluctantly tasting this dish and finding themselves with their plates clean by the end of the meal.
The onions and fennel add a sweetness to counteract the slight saltiness of the fish, while still allowing the flavor of the sardines to remain center stage. The currants reset the palate each time you happen upon one: A burst of briary, sweet fruit intermingles with the rich toasted pine nuts and almonds.
But for me, it’s the toasted breadcrumbs that really make this special, as each bite of breadcrumb-coated pasta is fortified with flavors of toasted, buttery goodness.
Meet Chef Eric GuidoAfter working in the New York City restaurant scene, Eric Guido branched out, organizing private dining and tasting events centered around Italian cuisine and wine. Here he began to incorporate food photography and recipe development. His continuing work can be seen at www.theviptable.net. Eric’s passion for food and wine is fueled by the togetherness and satisfaction found at the table.
Falling in love with a Sicilian classicQueens, New York: Picture a summer day with a group of kids playing in the backyard, feet hopping around the scolding asphalt as a sprinkler whirls and cools them off. Imagine the smells of summer; of the neighbor’s grill and the sound of an ice cream truck, the music never changing, around the corner. The Sicilian family next door comes out into the yard. Their Nonna (Grandmother), who has always worn plain black dresses out of respect for her lost husband, carries a bowl in her hands and sets it down on the table. The kids run to the table and begin to fill their plates. One sits there looking at his plate, at pasta that he’s never seen before, with an aroma that is alien to him. He takes a bite and finds something new, exciting and utterly captivating. It leaves an imprint on him that will forever remind him of childhood, summer days and, above all else … happiness.
I was that boy, and the pasta was this Sicilian classic.
Verdicchio makes the matchWhen it came time to select wines to go with this preparation, I immediately looked for a white from Sicily and ended up with the 2008 Hauner Bianco, Salina; a blend of Catarratto and Inzolia. However, I also wanted to pair a favorite of mine that I was sure would pair well: Verdicchio. The Santa Barbara Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Le Vaglia 2007 stole the show. A luminescent white gold in the glass with a bouquet of citrus fruit, lemon curd, orange blossom and an earthiness that was sometimes fresh cut grass and other times green olive. This Verdicchio showed crisp acidity with a mid-weight feel in the mouth as flavors of peach and lime danced across the tongue with a semi sweet mid palate performance and an herbal quality to the finish. A great wine for a wide range of food but absolutely wonderful with the Pasta con le Sarde as it’s tongue curling acidity cut through the intense flavor of sardine and added wonderful complexities to each bite with it’s herbal fresh finish.
The Hauner Bianco (Catarratto/Inzolia) Salina IGT 2008 showed a golden color in the glass with a floral nose of white flowers, lemon grass and honeysuckle. This wine was semi-sweet and rich on the palate, but with wonderful finesse showing grapefruit, figs and earth with a nice fresh finish. A good compliment to the Pasta con le Sarde, but pale in comparison against the Verdicchio. I’d recommend this wine as more of a summer sipper and would keep it away from dishes of intense flavor, as its gorgeous subtleties are lost against the complexities of such dishes.
In the end, each taster had nothing but praise for the pasta, and one showed total amazement at how much they enjoyed a dish centered around sardines. It’s simple, really: a complete flavor combination from a dish that has been perfected over the centuries, paired against a wine that complements it just as much as it contrasts it.
The full recipe for Pasta con le Sarde, after the jump.