My dear friend Anne Marie gave me a copy of The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 for my birthday (thank you again, AMQ!). I wasn’t familiar with the Food52 phenomenon, but have since learned that two Brooklyn food writers, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, started the Food52 website to essentially “crowd-source” a cookbook. Anyone could submit recipes to the site, readers would vote for their favourites, and one recipe from each week of the year (hence the “52” in the title) made it into the cookbook. It worked out so well they have now published a second volume, which organizes the recipes by season.

Food52, Volume 2 contains many interesting recipes and combinations I would have never thought to try, such as this linguine with tinned sardines, fennel and tomato. Thinly sliced fresh fennel and garlic are caramelized in oil from the can of sardines. Then add the tomatoes, vermouth, sardines and lemon juice. Toss cooked linguine with the sauce, top with some toasted breadcrumbs and lemon zest and you’re done. A couple of tips: The original recipe called for the garlic to be sautéed first, but, as the cookbook points out, it tends to burn by the time the fennel is done, so add the garlic after the fennel. Also, I found the sauce to be a little too lemony, so you may want to add it a tablespoon at a time and taste until it’s right for you.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for sardines packed in oil with no other ingredients and for tomatoes that contain only salt. Use fresh lemon juice and breadcrumbs with no artificial ingredients (I made my own in the food processor using day-old bread).

Fennel, tomatoes, sardines, garlic, lemon zest and breadcrumbs

Saute the fennel in oil from the sardines

Add tomatoes

Add the sardines and cooked linguine

Linguine with sardines, fennel and tomato


Kosher or sea salt

1 tin sardines packed in olive oil (about 4 ¼ oz.)

Extra virgin olive oil

2-3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and roughly chopped

1 small or ½ large bulb fennel, fronds reserved

¼ teaspoon red chile flakes, or more to taste

1 cup canned peeled tomatoes with their juice, gently crushed

2 ounces white (dry) vermouth

1 medium lemon, juice and zest

1/3 cup toasted breadcrumbs

¾ pounds dry linguine


Bring a very large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.

Open the sardine tin and drain a tablespoon or so of the oil into a wide skillet (the amount of oil in the tin will vary by brand, so add additional extra virgin olive oil if necessary to make up a tablespoon). Warm the oil over medium-low heat.

Trim the fennel and slice the bulb very thinly (a mandoline works great here). Add to the skillet with a sprinkle of salt, raise the heat to medium, and cook until the fennel is soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic, cooking until fragrant. Add the chile flakes and let them sizzle for a minute, just until fragrant, then add the tomatoes with their juice.

Cook until the liquid is reduced, then add the vermouth and let that reduce slightly.

Add the sardines to the skillet with the tomato and fennel mixture, breaking up slightly but leaving some chunks. Zest the lemon and combine a tablespoon or so of zest with the toasted breadcrumbs, then set aside.

Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pan. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

Add the linguine to the boiling salted water, cooking it until it is just short of al dente. Using tongs, transfer the linguine to the sauce to finish cooking, adding a little bit of the starchy pasta water and tossing gently to combine. (You’ll want to leave this a little wet, as the breadcrumbs will soak up the sauce and dry the pasta out a bit once you’ve added them.)

Transfer the pasta and sauce to a large warmed serving bowl (or individual pasta bowls), add a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle on the toasted breadcrumb-lemon zest mixture, and garnish with picked small fennel fronds and the remaining lemon zest. Serves 2-4.

From The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2