There was something strangely compelling about the can of Cuoco Brand Seasoning for Macaroni (with Sardines!) when I found it sitting on a shelf under a thick blanket of dust at the Italian grocer. Perhaps it was the totally unappealing product photo on the label. Or the faceless fish-man in chef’s garb with sardines swimming around/through his neck. I felt a pang of pity for this unloved, ugly thing and had to take it home with me.
There it sat in the pantry for several months collecting a new layer of dust. Until last night when the lack of a critical ingredient forced us to consider Plan B suppers. What the heck, there was still time to order pizza if the stuff was inedible.
Off came the lid and I took a tentative sniff, expecting something strong and fishy. I was pleasantly surprised by a fresh herbal aroma. So into a saucepan it went for a heating. Second surprise was I expected the sardines to be finely chopped or shredded. Nope, there were two huge hunks of fish (that I ended up cutting up into smaller pieces before serving).
Although they call it “seasoning”, I gathered from the label illustration that the product is intended as a topping for pasta. I served it over some whole wheat linguine with some chopped pickled hot peppers sprinkled on to add some zing.
The seasoning is mainly basil and anise and not nearly as salty as expected. I think it would have benefitted from a heavy splash of extra virgin olive oil but I didn’t want to waste the calories.
Overall verdict: good. Anise and sardine are two flavors that I never thought of as going together but it works. However, I think the sauce lost some vibrancy by being canned. We might try this made fresh in the near future.