I know this recipe is a convincing one because Ben McCanna, the photographer who came to my house to take a photo of both my sardine tasting board and me making this dish, started the photo shoot by admitting that he could never eat a sardine. Ignoring that, I gave him some pasta, and he ate a whole bowl!

Serves 4-6

2-3 pints cherry tomatoes

2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Salt

Pepper

1/3 cup olive oil

1 pound dried pasta like shells, orecchiette or campanelle (pictured)

1 fennel bulb, sliced, fronds chopped and reserved

Crushed red chile flakes

1-2 (4.4-ounce) tins boneless sardines packed in water, drained

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Slice tomatoes in half across the middle and squeeze out the seeds. Arrange tomatoes cut side up on the baking sheet. Place a slice of garlic on each tomato. Scatter the thyme leaves over them. Season them generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Slide sheet into the oven. Roast the tomatoes for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the tomatoes to finish cooking in the residual heat.

Prepare the pasta al dente, according to the package’s directions. Before draining the cooked pasta, reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water.

Drain the oil from the roasted tomatoes into a large skillet. Place over medium high heat. Add the sliced fennel bulb and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the roasted tomatoes and a hefty pinch of chile flakes. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and the pasta to the skillet. Stir to combine and let the sauce simmer to thicken, about 2 minutes. If the pan is too dry, add the remaining 1/2 cup pasta water. Remove the pan from the heat. Flake the sardines into bite-sized pieces and fold into the pasta. Season with salt. Garnish with the chopped fennel fronds. Serve immediately.