Sardinia ... an original, light and springy pasta recipe

This recipe takes my gastrosexual, 'men are intuitive cooks', argument further.

Consider the facts. This recipe is the result of a medley of factors such as the memory of a non creamy pasta dish that I had at a restaurant, an idea to use chopped basil, a new herb/ condiment that I discovered while buying basil and some Japanese sardines which a friend had given and which I spotted when I returned from shopping.
So here's the story of the making of Sardinia, a Karmakar original pasta recipe.
I wanted to make a pasta which was not doused in white sauce but was just held together with sauce. A bit like what we had at the Salt Water Cafe the other day. I also wanted use some fresh basil which I like because of its sharp, zesty taste. But I planned to finely chop it rather than grind it a la pesto. I thought of buying some lemon grass to experiment with a touch on tanginess in a white pasta. Again inspired by the lemon spray that they put in S W C. That's when I discovered apcket of leaves at our local vegetable seller. These were 'lemon leaves'. I had never used these before but I picked up some. This was a great discovery as crushed lemon leaves gave nice, virginal, citrus freshness to the dish.

So this is what I had so far - faint white sauce base, chopped greens AND some spicy chicken salami which was in the fridge. I reached home with my shopping bag and suddenly spotted a tin of Japanese sardines in chilly oil which a friend of mine, Sushobhan, got for me from China (!). That's when I took the inspired decision (sounds pompous but the result bears me out) to use sardines instead of the cold cuts which we usually use. The rest was history.

So you have an Italian dish - pasta, cheese sauce, garlic, basil + Oriental ingredients such as lemon leaves used in Thai and Malay cooking and Japanese sardines + an Indian cook. I could hear M J singing We are the world in Neverland.

So here's introducing, Sardinia, a dish which is unlikely to take more than twenty minutes to make, and is differennt and light and fairly good if you want to impress someone. Kainaz was grinning like a Cheshire cat after this.


  • 100 g pasta, boiled a la dente (firm), in thrice the amount of water, strained and kept aside. I use Bambino pasta which costs 30 bucks a pack. You need 2/3 a pack for two. I am not sure if the imported, expensive pastas would make a big difference. We prefer penne or fusili
  • 2 table spoons - garlic paste, I used Dabur's Homemade bottled paste, fresh pressed garlic would be lovely
  • Finely chopped, or grated if you have patience, cheese - 2 cubes, 20 g. It is not necessary to grate as it you are going to cook it so don't waste your time on that
  • A hand full of fresh basil - finely chopped
  • A hand full of fresh lemon leaves - ground slightly in a grinder
  • A can of Japanese sardines (4 in a can) - finely chopped. You could substitute with Tuna (Tunisia), bacon bits (Baconion), tofu bits (I give up thinking up names!)
  • Half a finely chopped tomato
  • Half a finely chopped capsicum, green pepper
  • 1 table spoon crushed pepper.
  • 1.5 tea spoon salt
  • White sauce base - 1/2 tea spoon corn flour dissolved in 1/3rd coffee mug of milk - this will smear the pasta but don't expect a very saucy pasta. Add more milk if that's what you want
  • 2 table spoons olive oil, you can use less


  • Heat olive oil in a non stick pan
  • Slowly sidle in garlic paste from the side, cover with a lid AND RUN. This will splatter
  • Stir from a distance and let this cook for about two minutes till the colour becomes a bit darker
  • Add the tomato and stir till it's translucent and soft
  • Add the cheese pieces and cook till they melt. See, there was no need to grate it. Try not to faint as there is no aroma more heavenly than that of melting cheese
  • Add the sauce base and slowly stir till the sauce thickens
  • Add the boiled pasta, salt and pepper and stir till the sauce spreads across the pasta
  • Add in salt and pepper
  • Add in sardine bits and stir gently for a minute
  • Add chopped basil and capsicum and stir for two minutes
  • Add grated lemon leaves and stir for half a minute. You don't want to over cook and kill the lemon fragrance
  • And you are done...about ten minutes from when you put the pan on the fire

I guess a chilled white would go well with it and try to finish it with a chocolate dessert. We had some lovely chocolate fudge.

I am not fond of fish or fish pasta but the flavour of the fish was very muted here and was a nice break from the usual cold cuts that we use.