You'd expect a dish with two small but mighty ocean fish to be salty, but pasta with canned sardines and anchovies really piles in on.
There is sodium in nearly every ingredient, including the imported Colavita whole-wheat pasta I sometimes use.
The first way to cut salt in the recipe is to stop salting the water used for boiling the pasta.
In the past, I'd pump up the flavor by dumping? sardines and anchovies and all their oil into the sauce, but now I drain the cans and add extra-virgin olive oil, which has no sodium.
A 2-ounce can of anchovies has 860 milligrams of sodium or 36% of the recommended daily intake of 2,400 milligrams.?
The anchovies dissolve completely, but give the sauce a hearty, non-fishy flavor.
A 4-ounce-plus can of the Moroccan sardines I use has 603 milligrams of sodium.
But the only way to avoid more sodium in the sauce is to make it yourself.
Today, I looked at the labels of a dozen bottled pasta sauces at the Hackensack ShopRite, and typically saw more than 300, 400 or even 500 milligrams of sodium listed for a serving size of one-half cup.
I found the lowest salt content in Chef Mario Batali's Tomato Basil pasta sauce -- only 180 mg per half cup -- but other Mario Batali sauces have a lot more sodium.
When I serve pasta with sardines and anchovies, I like to add grated Pecorino Romano, a sheep's milk cheese, so that's another source of sodium.
Not using salt in the pasta water and draining the cans of fish are good first steps, but I think I have to go further.
I could cut the amount of sardines -- to two cans from three or four per pound of pasta -- as well as use less bottled sauce and more extra-virgin olive oil.
I could also stop adding anchovies, but the sauce wouldn't be as robust. I can skip the grated cheese.
And I can console myself about the high sodium content of the dish by always drinking a glass or two of red wine with it.
At least that would be good for my heart.