Inspired by a teeny jar of Italian anchovies at the supermarket yesterday, I ran home to make pasta con le sarde.
The great sardine debate ensued.
I have proved victorious again. Not one to always be right, it is only an occasional, bordering on highly unusual, event. Proof that I have an affinity for useless information clogging up my brain like a stopped up drain.
Sardines are a different biological family to the anchovy. Still related as such, they are different nonetheless.
Isospondyli, the order of the most primitive teleost fishes, includes salmon, herring, shad, sardines, anchovies and smelts, among others. Within this, there are families of fishes: Clupeidae, Engraulidae, Osmeridae. These families cover herrings and sardines, anchovies, and smelts respectively.
Sardines are merely all of the small or half grown herrings, Clupea harengus harengus. Not to be confused with species of what are considered the true sardine, Sardina pilchardus, from the Mediterranean.
I love my pasta con le sarde.. a nicer ring than pasta con le Clupea harengus harengus. Smashed up in a garlicky, savoury tomato sauce tossed with gemelli or rigatoni.
Anchovies, alici, or Engraulis encrasicholus, are a Mediterranean species and truly celebrated in the cuisine of the region. I often toss a few into the pasta con le sarde (but don't tell the sardines) just to layer on the taste. I learned the hard way not to let Zio go to the market for alici.. unless you want to be eating alici for a week. His eyes are definitely bigger than his stomach when it comes to the market.
Pasta con tonno always gets a fillet or two and I add one to sauteed prawns for the added zing. They flavour a salsa verde to the point of sublime and are bloody good on pizza too. I only make a restaurant style caesar salad especially for my brother-in-law, once in awhile, and it is essential in the dressing.
And simply, fresh sardines in a dressing of lemon juice, and a smattering of fresh herbs. No need to "ahem" complicate a good thing.