Sorry Matt, it's another sardine recipe.
I can't help it though, sardines are just really good, really healthy, and easy to keep on hand. For this recipe, I experimented with some less expensive larger sardines. They taste good but I did remove the backbone. You can eat the backbone (yay calcium, Andy said "hmm, it tastes like healthy"), in fact it would probably break up into unrecognizable pieces as you are stirring the sauce, but it's a little unappetizing to me so I skipped it. In general, when buying sardines, look for ones that are packed in oil and are not flavored. The "cheapo" ones were packed in vegetable oil of some kind, the more expensive ones in extra virgin olive oil. And really, they are not expensive, I think under $3; it is a relative term.
This recipe is based off of a classic Sicilian pasta that can be found in the Gourmet Cookbook or on Epicurious. The original recipe called for fennel seeds, but I was out so I substituted anise seeds instead. If you chop everything in a food processor this will be a very quick meal!
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 medium to large fennel bulb, chopped. Also chop fronds and reserve separate from the bulb. Discard stalks.
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon anise seeds, crushed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 can oil packed, unflavored "cheapo" sardines - these are the larger ones that should be cheaper and look like this
1 can oil packed, unflavored "expensive" sardines - Brisling two-row
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1. Bring water to a boil for the pasta.
2. Combine raisins and wine in a bowl.
3. Cook onion, fennel bulb, and anise seeds in oil with salt to taste in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.
4. While the veggies are cooking, toast the pine nuts, then the bread crumbs, in a hot, preferably cast iron, skillet. Be sure to stir frequently lest they burn. Set aside. If desired, a bit more olive oil and salt can be added to the bread crumbs as they toast.
5. Also while the veggies are cooking, cook the pasta, following directions on the package.
6. Drain the "cheapo" sardines. If desired, split the fish pieces in half along the plane of the backbone to access and remove the backbone.
7. Add wine mixture and the "cheapo" sardines, breaking sardines up with a fork, and simmer 1 minute.
8. Drain the "expensive" sardines.
9. When everything is ready (and it's fine if the sauce has to hang out while everything else is being finished), toss the pasta in a large bowl with sauce, remaining "expensive" sardines, fennel fronds, parsley, pine nuts, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste.
Prepared in this way, there was virtually no "fishiness." If you wanted a stronger tasting dish, you could use some of the oil from the sardines in place of the olive oil. Sorry there's no picture of this one!