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A Quick Fix: Pasta with Lemon, Sardines, and Capers

recipe capers homeBerkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas to readers and friends. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works: Meals from the Homemade Pantry (Clarkson Potter), due out in 2014.

We need some decent dinner ideas, and we need them fast. I was talking to my friend Meg; life’s been a little crazy for her lately, a little more stressful, and she’s been having a bit of a time getting dinner out. We were talking about those fabulous things that involve ingredients we almost always have, that are cheap, take 20 minutes, and are so delicious everyone’s excited that you didn’t have time to make something else.

I’m talking about carbonara. And I said so to Meg. “Well at least there’s carbonara.” And then she said, “Yeah there’s definitely carbonara, and then of course there’s pasta with lemon, sardines, and capers, which is cheaper and faster and really only uses one pot.” And I said, “Yeah, totally.” Like I knew what she was talking about, like I had eaten it a million times.

I was just going with the flow of the conversation. But afterwards I started thinking, and kept repeating it over in my head… pasta with lemon, sardines, and capers.

That’s right—PASTA WITH LEMON, SARDINES, AND CAPERS! How come I’ve never thought of this?

For days, I thought about it–it was in the back of my head like a little song, repeating over and over in a rhythm of ease and craving and dinner planning. Pasta with lemon, sardines, and capers; pasta with lemon, sardines, and capers. And then it was dinner.


recipe sardines homeIt’s possible that I’ve lost you with the sardines–I know it can happen. But if that’s the case, let me push you a little on this one. Do you really not like sardines? Or are you confusing them with anchovies? Or do you just think you don’t like sardines? This would be a time to look deep inside yourself and get some answers.

Because I’m offering you a dinner plan here, and it can be ready by six. I think it’s in your best interest to give it a try. Because I bet you have a jar of capers in your fridge. And a lemon too. And maybe, just maybe, there’s a tin of sardines in your pantry that your cousin from France left when he was visiting last summer.

I’ve always thought of sardines in the context of a sandwich. When I was a teenager I was handed my first sardine sandwich on white bread with butter and I never looked back. But this? This takes it to a whole new level. Besides being so so tasty, sardines are high in omega 3′s, low in mercury, and inexpensive to buy. In this age of dangerous fish eating, it’s a good idea to stay small–sardines and anchovies and smelts and those fish that are low on the food chain are your best bet. And on white bread with butter? Hoo-ray. And on pasta? I’m adding an exclamation point. Hoo-ray! 

recipe pasta finPasta With Lemon, Sardines, and Capers
(with thanks to Meg)

1 pound fetuccine, spaghetti, or some other long and skinny pasta
2 tins sardines (about 8 ounces), can be in water or olive oil
juice of one big lemon
1/4 cup capers
olive oil
salt and pepper
optional: 2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary

Cook the pasta as usual. Drain, and toss with sardines, lemon juice, capers, rosemary if you’re using it, a few good glugs of olive oil, and a flurrying of salt and pepper. Taste, and either adjust the seasonings or keep on eating. Dinner is served.

Reprinted with permission from All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.

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Posted by Nichole on 04/11/13 at 10:50 AM • Permalink