Canned sardines are a familiar staple of Filipino food. but I’d never thought of combining them with spaghetti until my partner Ami suggested it. The idea of sardines and spaghetti really didn’t ring my bell but I tried it and it worked wonderfully. So here goes.
In the Philippines spaghetti is usually served with a red tomato sauce so sweet it should be a desert. I hate it. As it happens, the tomato sauce in canned sardines is not as sweet as in the commercial spaghetti sauces.
A word about spaghetti. Unlike Asian noodles, spaghetti needs lots and lots of water to boil in so use the biggest pan you have, fill it with water, add some salt and a little oil or butter to prevent the strands from sticking to the pan. Bring the water to a fast rolling (roiling) boil and keep it there – don’t turn the heat down to a mere simmer, the water must be roiling.
Take a handful of spaghetti – do not break it into pieces to fit the pan. Put one end of the bunch into the water and stir the water with the spaghetti, as the spaghetti softens, lower the bunch until it’s all in the pan. You now have around 13 and a half minutes, watch it on the clock while you make the sauce.
I was once asked to cook spaghetti at a party south of Manila and made up a vast batch. Only after I’d finished was I told that no-one was going to turn up for an hour and a half and the spaghetti sat in a bowl on the table congealing and getting cold. I could have cried. Spaghetti must be eaten freshly cooked and hot.
After 13 and a half minutes drain the spaghetti. I like to rise the spaghetti in warm water, purists find that objectionable, so do whatever you feel. Return the spaghetti to the pan, turn the heat right down, add butter, a little salt, some pepper and a nob of butter and toss until the butter is melted and spread evenly.
Chop up an onion and some garlic, melt butter or use olive oil (You can use star margarine) and gently cook the garlic and onion until yellow and soft, not burned or crisp. Add a can of sardines in tomato sauce, stir well in, breaking up the sardine into smaller pieces. Add some basil and oregano if you have it and let cook on low for a couple of minutes to let the herbs seep through. You can do all that while waiting for the spahetti to cook.
Put spaghetti on a warmed plate, top with the sauce, sprinkle grated cheese – Parmesan if you have it – and eat hot.
That’s about as simple as it gets, except maybe for my Spaghetti Carbonara, but that’s have to wait for another day.