Tinned fish has historically gotten a bad rap as inferior to their fresh counterparts; Longstanding tinned fish recipes often mask tuna's fishiness with plenty of mayonnaise or pulverize ultra-salty anchovies into a salad dressing to make them more appetizing. However, canned fish has made a major comeback in modern cooking as an accessible, diverse, and easy ingredient to add flavor to dishes or to eat straight out of the can.
Canned sardines are a part of this newfound appreciation for tinned fish, and while they taste drastically different from fresh sardines, the unique flavor and texture imparted by the preservation and canning process is the perfect addition to any pasta. Canned sardines are softer than fresh sardines with a saltier, fishier flavor. Their umami-rich, salty profile will complement oil, tomato, and cream-based pasta sauces while also providing a tender chew. Plus, they now come in countless varieties that you can use to pair with different pasta sauce flavors.
There are dozens of canned sardine brands — some oil-packed, others packed in brine, and still others smoking the sardines before tinning them in brine or oil. Furthermore, canned sardines can be from fishier-tasting wild-caught sardines or more buttery, tame farmed sardines. Therefore, the type of canned sardine you choose varies drastically depending on how it's preserved and its source; Brine-packed sardines will add a fishy salty zing, oil-packed sardines impart a blend of earthy and umami, and smoked tinned sardines will provide a trifecta of smoky, savory, and salty.
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Canned Sardine Pasta Ideas
When it comes to the tastiest canned fish products, sardines reign supreme — as they come packed in unique sauces and flavored oils. Some varieties even come packed in brine or vinegar with slices of chili peppers. This diversity of canned sardine varieties opens up a world of possibilities for pasta dish pairings. There's even a pasta dish that revolves around sardines (similar to pasta con la sarde) that modern Italian chef Fabio Trabocchi has made accessible to home chefs by swapping fresh sardines for tinned, oil-packed sardines. Trabocchi adds the sardines whole to an oil-based sauce of peppers, dill, and toasted almonds.
Moreover, a salty, brined sardine would season and complement the richness of a cream-based pasta sauce like a roasted garlic Alfredo cream sauce. The inherent tang and umami-richness in a tomato-based sauce would temper the saltiness of brined sardines. However, you could also use the flavorful preservation oils and sauces as flavor agents, blending them into a bubbling tomato sauce or sautéeing them with onions and garlic as you build a scratch-made pasta sauce. You could use tomato or garlic-infused sardine oil along with butter as the base for a tastier cacio e pepe pasta, topping the simple dish with a few whole filets.
Because the preservation process softens sardines, you can easily break them down with a fork to incorporate them into a chunky sauce or spread their flavor evenly amongst additional meat and vegetables you want to mix into the dish.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.