I’m a deconstructionist. A what? A deconstructionist. Maybe there’s no real word like that but that’s the most illustrative I could come up with. It means I experience something, I take it apart mentally then I put it back together to create my version.
Of course, I’m talking about food. I go and eat at a restaurant and when I like a dish, I let my tongue, nose and eyes analyze what the ingredients are and how they were cooked together. Then, when I get home, I cook something similar. Not an exact replica but something inspired by the original.
Most of the time, I make a pretty good job of deconstructing. It is Sam who never misses. She can tell what herbs and spices are in a dish even if they have been chopped or ground so finely that they are no longer discernible individually. But now that she’s a vegetarian, I can’t ask for her help in deconstructing non-vegetarian dishes.
This pasta with sardines in brandied tomato sauce is inspired by the glorious pasta al fume at Aria Cucina Italiana in Boracay. The sauce was made with fresh tomatoes and, of course, brandy.
How did the pasta turn out? Let me put it this way. Speedy isn’t a huge fan of pasta but he had two helpings. Can there be a better testament to how good this pasta dish is? I think not.
A few notes… The sardines are the kind sold in jars packed in oil. They’re tastier and firmer. The spiced oil can even be added to the pasta sauce. You can use anchovies instead of sardines if you want a more authentic Italian flavor.
For the cheese, I used the saltiest I had in the fridge — sharp cheddar. A drier and more aged cheese like Parmesan or Edam would be better so you might want to consider your options.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil (doesn't have to be extra virgin)
- 2 cups finely chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 pinches oregano
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 2 generous splashes brandy
- 6 sardines sardines
- cooked pasta any shape, for two persons
- 1 c shredded cheese
- snipped parsley to garnish
Heat the olive oil. Add the tomatoes, onions and garlic. Sprinkle in the oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables soften a bit.
Add the brandy. Stir. Allow to cook uncovered for a few minutes. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper, as needed. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the sardines, breaking them into smaller pieces.
Continue cooking the sauce, uncovered over medium heat, until chunky and almost dry.
Taste the sauce one last time and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Remember though that you will be adding a lot of cheese so go easy on the salt.
Turn off the heat. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss well.
Add the cheese to the pasta. Toss to distribute evenly.
Sprinkle the pasta with snipped parsley before serving.