This is sort of a variation on pasta puttanesca, which has anchovies and is usually cooked very quickly. Here, I use sardines and I cook the sauce longer, so it is thick and sweet. I also use lemon zest and juice, which brightens up this very lusty sauce. —Emily
large onion, diced medium fine
garlic cloves, coarsely minced
tin of sardines in oil, larger bones removed
capers in brine, drained
can of tomatoes, pureed or whole (not diced)
flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
oil-cured black olives, pitted and roughly chopped (you can use other olives if you can't find oil-cured ones)
Sauté the diced onion in a tablespoon or so of oil over medium low heat; cover for a few minutes so that the onions stays moist and become translucent. Avoid browning the onion. While the onion is softening, get a pot of well-salted water going on the stove to cook the pasta.
After the onion is soft, add the garlic and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes. (I like to make this a little on the spicy side, so I use a couple healthy pinches of red pepper flakes.) Let cook for a couple minutes, avoiding overly browning the garlic. Add the sardines and capers and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sardines start to dissolve.
If you are working with whole canned tomatoes, pour the tomatoes into a bowl and either break them up with your hands or lightly pulse them with a soup stick. Add the tomatoes; then add a 1/3 – 1/2 cup of water to the can, swirl it around to get the remains bits of tomato out, and add it to the sauce.
Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 30-35 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sauce thickens.
When the sauce starts to thicken, cook the pasta. Five minutes before the pasta is done, add the chopped parsley and the olives to the sauce. Don’t add the olives earlier: they will overpower the sauce if they cook in it too long.
Drain the pasta, add to the sauce and toss to combine. You can add some extra fresh parsley at this point, if you’d like.