Mediterranean food in general - and it has to be said Italian food in particular - has long since been my favorite world cuisine. The fresh summer sun vegetables, the seafood, the pasta and the simplicity of the ways in which they are combined and cooked is a revelation compared to so many other foodstuffs found around the world. This incredibly simple recipe is made to combine all three of those wonderful elements to which I hope you will agree is delicious effect. The generally healthful nature of the food is of course another huge bonus which should never be ignored.

Sardines with Pasta and Vegetables
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Roasted Mediterranean vegetables with fusilli pasta and sardines

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 1 medium sized eggplant (aubergine)
  • 1 medium sized zucchini (courgette)
  • 1 medium sized red onion
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 coffee mugs full of fusilli pasta
  • 2 ultra fresh sardines
  • Couple of tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley to garnish
Chopped Vegetables for Roasting
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Vegetables chopped and sliced for roasting

While you are preparing the vegetables for roasting, you should start your oven preheating to 425F/210C/Gas Mark 7. Wash the zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes and dry with some kitchen paper. Top and tail the zucchini and eggplant and cut each of them in half long ways. Cut each half in half again in a similar way. Slice the quarters across the way to around three-quarters of an inch thickness. Peel the red onion, half it down through the center and lay each half cut side down on your chopping board to moderately finely slice. Peel and finely slice the garlic cloves.

Vegetables added to Roasting Tray
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Vegetables are added to raosting tray and drizzled with olive oil

Scoop the zucchini, eggplant, red onion, garlic and tomatoes in to a fairly large, deep roasting tray. Drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt, black pepper and the dried herbs. Use a wooden spoon to gently stir everything around to evenly distribute the oil and seasonings. Put the tray in to the oven for half an hour.

Fresh Sardines
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Fresh sardines

When you are buying sardines, ask for them to be scaled at least for you at the point of purchase. The reason for this is that although there are a lot of types of fish which require to be scaled before they are filleted and/or cooked, I have never known a type which make such a mess when they are scaled as sardines. The scales really do get everywhere and you could be finding them all over your kitchen for days afterwards. If you can't get them scaled for you, consider scaling them outdoors or try to do so while holding them deep inside a large plastic bag. A dedicated scaling tool is best used for the purpose but you can easily get away with using the blunt edge of a knife.

It may be that you also wish to ask that the sardines be filleted for you in the supermarket or store. They are however incredibly easy fish to fillet at home, provided you do have a proper filleting knife. There are some essential features of a filleting knife which cannot be compromised on when filleting fish.

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Filleting Sardines
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Filleting the sardines

To fillet the sardines, hold the head with your weaker hand on a chopping board. Make a cut behind the pectoral (side) fin, slightly angled towards the head and cut through to the bone. Twist the knife that the sharp edge of the blade is facing the tail of the fish and make a careful sawing motion, cutting all the way along the spine until you can remove the first fillet. Turn the fish over and do exactly the same on the second side.

Measuring Out Pasta
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

A coffee mug is a good way of measuring out a single portion of pasta

The quantity of pasta used in this recipe is variable but I have discovered that a coffee mug full of dried pasta makes a good measurement for what I consider to be one portion.

Cooking Pasta
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Plenty of water in the cooking pot is what stops pasta sticking together

Start by bringing a large pot of heavily salted water to a rolling bowl. It is by using plenty of water that you prevent pasta from sticking together. Measure out the pasta and add it to the water. Stir well. Reduce the heat and simmer for nine or ten minutes. Drain well through a colander at your sink.

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Roasted Mediterranean vegetables removed from the oven

Take the tray of vegetables from the oven and allow them to steam off for a couple of minutes. You should find they are softened and slightly shrunken but neither shriveled nor dry.

Pan Frying Sardines
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Pan frying sardine fillets

While the pasta and vegetables are steaming off and drying out, pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in to a large, non-stick frying pan. Season the sardine fillets lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Bring the oil up to a medium heat and fry the sardines for about a minute on each side. This is all the length of time these delicate little fillets will take to cook through.

Pasta added to Vegetables
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Fusilli is added to roasted vegetables

Tip the fusilli from the colander straight in to the tray with the roasted vegetables.

Pasta Stirred through Vegetables
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Pasta is stirred through vegetables with a wooden spoon

Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir the pasta through the veg.

Pasta and Vegetables in Serving Dish
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Pasta and vegetables are added to serving dish

A large slotted spoon is best used to lift the pasta and vegetables from the tray to a suitably large and deep serving dish.

Sardines Laid on Pasta
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Sardine fillets are laid on pasta and vegetables

Lay the sardine fillets on top of the pasta and vegetables and garnish with the chopped parsley. The dish should be carried to the table for dividing between the individual plates with a serving spoon.