One of the most delicious and satisfying antipasti in the Italian repertoire is also one of the simplest: fagioli e tonno, or Bean and Tuna Salad. Well, the other day I was rummaging through my pantry, not really feeling like cooking—yes, it happens even to me sometimes—and found a can of ceci (chickpeas) and a can of sardines packed in olive oil. And the thought occurred to me: would these go together as well? I tried my Sardine and Chickpea Salad and found it wonderfully satisfying.
You make this simple salad in the same way you make tonno e fagioli. To my taste, the result was just as delicious as the classic antipasto—if anything, it’s even more sumptuous. It exemplifies how taking a tried-and-true idea and making a few tweaks can produce something familiar, yet new. It’s the kind of creativity that like best.
Sardine and Chickpea Salad makes a great antipasto or, with some crusty bread, a light lunch or supper.
- 2-3 cans of sardine fillets, best quality
- 2-3 cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
- A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Combine the sardine fillets and chickpeas in a large bowl, then add the chopped red onion and chopped parsley, a generous pour of fruity olive oil and a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Season generously with salt and pepper and mix together well.
Taste, adjust the seasoning if need be, and serve, over a bed of greens if you like.
The success of an easy cupboard recipe like Sardine and Chickpea Salad will depend very much of the quality of your main ingredients. Canned sardines, in particular, can vary wildly in quality and taste. I won’t give recommendations here—I’ll have to do more of my own research before I’d be comfortable doing that—but I will say that Portuguese sardines are generally considered the best. A quick Google search for “best canned sardines” will give you a good starting point for your own search. One thing for sure, however: do look for sardines that are packed in olive oil and without any extraneous flavors.