Tag Archives: I made this!

Macchiate Pasta con le Sarde

I have been out of my normal cooking schedule since returning from Indonesia, although I have managed to cook a few times.  I wanted a quick pasta dish the other day but also wanted something new.  Without time to head out to the grocery store, I was left with what I had in the cupboards to work with.

What I came up with is a pasta dish in the cuccina rustica style of southern Italy/Scicily that is tasty, simple and fast.  This dish is inspired by the simplicity of Pasta Aglio e Olio and Spaghetti alla Puttanesca.

Macchiate Pasta con le Sarde


  • 1 lb of Pasta.  Bucatini is great, linguine or fettuccine is fine as well.
  • 1 can of sardines – reserve the packing oil (I used Billionaires)
  • 1 medium onion sliced (minced if you prefer)
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup Good Olive Oil
  • 3-4 cups of leafy greens (optional)
  • 2 tsp Turmeric
  • salt and pepper


  • bring water to a rolling boil, salt and add pasta, cooking as per the direction on the package
  • drain the packing oil from the can of sardines into your skillet
  • bring the skillet to temp and then saute the onions
  • Once the onions have softened, add the garlic and the olive oil
  • Once the pan comes back up to temperature, add the greens and cover to wilt the greens
  • After a minute or so, remove the cover and add the whole sardines
  • season with plenty of salt, as much fresh ground pepper as you like and add the turmeric.  Don’t be too generous with the salt: it’s easy to add and hard to remove :)
  • Fold all ingredients together
  • Using tongs, add the pasta directly from the pot to the skillet – we want the salty, starchy water
  • Toss the pasta with the sauce – if you need to add up to another 1/4 cup or so of pasta water go ahead.  The sauce should have a lovely sheen to it, be thick enough to stick to the pasta without pooling in the pan.
  • Once everything is combined, the sardines will have broken up and be little shreds of fish throughout the dish, with the lovely occasional larger bit lurking about.


  • Pile generous portions into a shallow bowl or plate.
  • Serve with a dish of coarse salt.  This dish can be great with a powerful salty flavour, but that is always a matter of taste.  Go easy with the salt in the pan and let your guests add as much or as little as they like.
  • Serve with a good crusty bread, so that at the end of the meal, you can clean the “stain” out of the bowl with your bread.
  • There are greens in this meal, but another vegetable side would be fine.  I think large, tomatoes just picked from your garden and still warm from the sun would be best, sliced thick and drizzled with olive oil (maybe a touch of fine balsamic vinegar) and seasoned with salt and pepper server on a side platter.  A very simple fennel salad of thinly sliced fennel tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice would work as well.  The pasta dish should be front and centre and all the accompaniments, the bread, salad and wine, should support the pasta.
  • I’m far from a wine expert, but I’d pair this with a classic Chianti or an nice oaky Chardonnay.  If you prefer I think a Pinot Noir or even the right Merlot would be fine.
  • You might have notice the absence of any cheese in this recipe at all, even a parmagianno regiano as a topping.  I think this is fine without cheese, which is surprising because I add cheese to anything.  But in this case, the strong fish and saltiness of the dish is enough and I think the cheese would be lost in that and/or muddle and confuse the flavours.  Maybe I’m wrong – I also didn’t have any parmesan handy when I made this <grin>.


  • Drawing on the inspiration for this dish here are some other ingredients you can add as variantions:
    • Olives
    • Capers
    • Red Pepper Flakes
    • Substitute canned tuna for the sardines (as Rob G. pointed out canned mackerel would also be a good choice here)
  • Drawing on the traditional Pasta con le Sarde recipes I found, you might want to try:
    • pine nuts
    • currents or raisins
    • substitute saffron for the turmeric


I haven’t written down and/or named my recipes very much.  I’m trying to do a better job of writing down what I cook, which out of necessity is making me come up with names for these recipes.  It’s fun, but I am rather finicky about names, so it take a long time for me.  I started off looking for similar dishes and found the Sicilian classic Pasta con le Sarde which I used as the starting place for my name.  I was playing with something like Pasta con le Sarde D’oro or Pasta with Golden Sardines, but it seemed too grandiose for this simple and rustic dish.  So instead went with Macchiate Pasta con le Sarde or Stained Pasta with Sardines (at least I hope…I am not exactly fluent in Italian – if you read Italian and can provide a better translation, let me know :)).  I like the idea of this being a stained dish because of the gorgeous yellow turmeric that blooms in the oil and coats everything…stain the pasta, the pot, probably the stove and likely some clothes <grin>.

I’m particularly pleased with myself with creating this dish because, I had the sense that this was a Sicilian style dish while making it.  Finding the Pasta con le Sarde recipe, which I’ve never seen, was great fun since it is indeed Sicilian but also because I thought bucantini was a good pasta and it turns out that’s fairly traditional for this dish- of course the traditional recipe uses fresh sardines, something rather hard to come by in Guelph.  Also, I chose to use turmeric because I was thinking of the Mediterranean/Arabic influence in the area so I was delighted to discover the traditional recipe uses saffron, which achieves the same golden colouring.  The traditional recipe startes the sauce off with anchovies; I don’t have this step, but I do use the sardine oil from the can which does have a bold, aromatic smoked fish flavour as well.  All in all I’m feeling more than a little clever <smile>.