Fettuccine tossed with roasted spring onions, tinned sardines, capers, herbs, and buttery panko makes for a simple and hearty early spring meal.
Pasta is an easy win this time of year. I don’t want anything fancy or excessively cheesy – I’m after earthy, assertive spring flavors and the perfect al dente chew. Halved and roasted spring onions sprinkled with zest and red pepper flakes are complex – the bulbs become meltingly supple, while the greens crisp up and even char a little. In a big bowl, the onions and fettuccine mingle with olive oil, capers, and excessive amounts of parsley (a whole bunch is best). And, bringing it all together, tinned sardines and buttery toasted panko. (I am decidedly from the US, but tinned sounds a billion times more appetizing than canned, and I’m sticking with it.)
For a long time, I avoided tinned fish, convinced the flavor would be fishy and also deeply afraid of all those little bones. But the fact is, tinned fish are fishy in the best possible way, it’s no big deal to eat the bones, and they’re generally just really good and cheap. Even better, smaller fish like sardines and anchovies are much more sustainable to produce and harvest, low in mercury, and high in omega-3 fatty acids. I prefer the kind in olive oil and buy sardines that are MSC-certified. Do not feel petty for picking the one with the coolest label.
- 1 bunch spring onions, tops trimmed as needed and halved
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Zest of 1 lemon plus several squeezes of juice, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Sea salt
- 1 pound fettuccine noodles
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 1 4 1/4-ounce can sardines packed in olive oil, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Arrange spring onions on a rimmed baking sheet, rounded side down. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and sea salt. Roast until onions are very tender with charred edges, 20 - 25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Set aside to cool.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook fettuccini until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain noodles.
Melt butter in a small skillet over medium/medium-high heat. Add panko and a pinch of sea salt and toast, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are fragrant and golden, 2 - 4 minutes.
Working quickly, slice onions into long strips and toss with warm fettuccini. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, Parmesan, capers, and parsley (reserve some parsley for plating). Add a splash of pasta cooking water to keep things loose. Fold in the sardines, and add lemon juice, sea salt, and red pepper flakes to taste.
Plate pasta, and top with toasted panko and parsley.
Timing plays a big role in making sure the pasta is comes out warm and the ingredients meld, so make sure the pasta is ready just as the other elements are and work quickly to get everything to the table. If you’re up for it, warm plates help too.