Nothing beats fresh sardines off the grill during sardine season, simply seasoned with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil. Crunchy and charred outside, moist goodness inside, we’d simply top thick sliced Portuguese bread with the grilled sardines, and eat it with our hands, heads and all. We used to go to Foz do Douro in Porto, Portugal, during sardine season and eat a ridiculous amount of the tasty fish.
Unfortunately, in landlocked Berlin, we don’t get fresh seafood the way we did in Portugal. Lack of outdoor space in our flat sadly also makes grilling a thing of the past. It’s not the same, but tinned sardines to the rescue! I always keep a couple of tins of sardines and anchovies in the pantry since they’re so versatile and can be tossed into pasta, salad, fried rice or to top bruschetta as a delicious addition.
Here’s one such recipe. It’s one of my go-to weekday dinner recipes. It takes about 15-20 minutes to cook and put together: while the pasta cooks, I work on the sardine sauce. So simple, so easy, so good and the lemony flavour brightens up any winter day. Hope you’ll like this one too.
What you need for 4 people
- 500g spaghetti
- 2 (roughly 80g each) tins of sardines: I use the ones in spicy olive oil for an extra kick
- olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 lemon: grate the zest, juice the flesh and save both
- salt and pepper and chili flakes to taste
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- a handful of parsley, chopped
Start cooking the pasta
Cook the spaghetti according to cooking instructions. We love ours al dente, so usually no more than 8-10 minutes on the stove for our pasta.
Start cooking the sardines
While the pasta is cooking, start on the sardines. In a cast-iron pan, over a medium fire, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the smashed garlic and stir fry until fragrant. You can leave the garlic in, but I usually fish 2 out and keep 1 in for flavour.
Add the sardines, including the oil it’s been packed in as this adds more flavour. Break apart the sardines with your cooking spatula so that they’re in smaller chunks. Don’t overdo it, we don’t want a sardine purée. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, until the sardines are warmed through and coated in the oil.
Turn off the fire. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and chili flakes, stir well.
Drain the pasta, leaving about ½ cup of pasta water. In a large mixing bowl, toss the pasta together with the pasta water and sardine sauce. Add the lemon zest and parsley, mix well. Then add the breadcrumbs. Divide the pasta between the plates and serve.