Spicy Spaghetti with Sardines

I started a new job exactly a week ago.

It was Valentine’s Day and my heart was full, as I embarked on a new relationship… with a new company.

Jobs are really like relationships, aren’t they? You both give and receive, you grow together, you live, you learn. And I would like to consider myself a serial monogamist, as I was with my former ad agency for seven years. But change was inevitable and now I am hoping that this new relationship will result in many happy years, too.

This bowl of Spicy Spaghetti with Sardines reminds me of another relationship I treasure. The last time I had it, I was with Lora, one of my best friends is the entire world.

People often ask if we’re sisters, and Lora really is like a sister to me already. We met 10 years ago and immediately became partners in crime, when we worked in the glamorous-but-exhausting world of magazine publishing.  She was my confidante and advisor, and even in our twenties we had no shame in having sleepovers in our pajamas.  Through the years we’ve shared many plates of food and even more plates of dessert.  She was the first person who saw me after a horrible break-up a few years ago, the first friend who ever bought me anything from Dior.  And she was the first friend I met up with when I was home in the Philippines last December.  She knew exactly how I wanted to kick start my holiday vacation: 4 hours at the salon (don’t judge; between the two of us, we have a lot of hair), a nonstop gabbing session, capped off by a late dinner of pasta. She took me to one of her favorite restaurants, where we quickly polished off a plate of Sardinia Pasta.

Even before we left the restaurant, I already knew that I would be trying to recreate the Sardinia Pasta when I get back to Boston. I loved the flakes of smoked sardines, the garlicky sauce, the kick of spice. I used a can of Bela Portuguese Sardines (lightly smoked sardines in cayenne peppered flavored extra virgin olive oil) which I received as part of a sample pack. I actually buy these regularly from Whole Foods, too, and I keep them stocked in my pantry, along with bottles of Spanish sardines that I use for open-faced sandwiches.

Eating that plate of sardine pasta with my best friend, talking about everything from celebrity scandals to politics, I have never been so comforted by the thought that even though we’ve been apart for years, and so many things have changed, our relationship is here to stay.

So this is my sentimental way of saying that big things may be happening, and change is always going to come, but some things will always be the same.

Like my love for spaghetti. And sardines.

Spicy Spaghetti with Sardines


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 can smoked sardines (I used smoked sardines in cayenne pepper flavored olive oil)
1/4 cup chopped oregano (you can substitute parsley if you don't like oregano)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, with tomatoes sliced in half
1/2 cup white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cool water; set aside.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes and chili pepper flakes, and saute until tomatoes are softened and have started to release their juices, about 5 minutes.  Add sardines, white wine, and lemon zest. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer pasta to the pan, add oregano and lemon juice, and toss to combine everything together.  Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

I know that sardines, like anchovies, are polarizing in the food world. But I love both, and if you like sardines, too (or if you haven’t tried them yet but want a new way to get your omega-3’s and vitamins), then I hope you try this recipe!



34 Responses to “Spicy Spaghetti with Sardines”

  1. #
    Erin | The Law Student's Wife posted February 21, 2013 at 10:05 am

    What a sweet story about your friend and CONGRATS on the new job! For all of my love of seafood, I’ve never tried a pasta with canned sardines. Looks like I’ve been missing out!

  2. #
    Rachel @ Healthy Chicks posted February 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Love this post! First of all, congrats on the new job! Believe it or not, I just cooked with sardines for the FIRST TIME EVER the other night when my boyfriend threw them in some pasta with olive oil, garlic and veggies. To my surprise, they were very tasty and flavorful! I won’t be afraid of them any more, that’s for sure :)

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted February 21, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Than you! Sardines have great nutritional stats too, so I’m glad you’re now cooking with it!

  3. #
    Samantha Angela posted February 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I think sardines are great! A lot of people don’t like them which is understandable because they do taste (and smell!) fishy, but they can be a really good alternative to canned tuna.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted February 21, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Yes, and some brands are definitely better than others. I tend to like the ones with bigger fishies :)

  4. #
    Colleen @ Culinary Colleen posted February 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Sardines have always made me cringe, but I’ve been trying to look for ways to eat them because they’re so healthy. I can’t imagine I wouldn’t like them in this pasta – especially the smoky ones!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted February 21, 2013 at 2:24 pm

      Yeah I hope you give it a try! the smoky ones are my favorite from this brand! But usually, if anything is labeled spicy, I like it :)

  5. #
    Renee {Eat.Live.Blog} posted February 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Congrats on the new job! Wish I could say I love sardines…just can’t do it!

  6. #
    Adri {Food-N-Thought} posted February 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Talks over pasta with friends = the best!
    But I am in the “no sardines” pole still… I do make something similar with canned tuna tho.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted February 21, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      This recipe would work great with canned tuna, I will try that too!

  7. #
    Michelle Collins posted February 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Congrats on the new job!!

  8. #
    Shannon posted February 21, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    congrats on the new job!! this looks lovely, even if i wrinkle my nose at sardines still :)

  9. #
    Megan posted February 21, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Congrats on the new job! And the pasta looks tasty!

  10. #
    Jen L | Tartine and Apron Strings posted February 21, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Bianca, I love Spanish sardines!!! I specially love those bottled ones from the Philippines; the one that’s in chili oil. Yum, yum, yum! I haven’t eaten pasta in about 2 months because of my Paleo diet thing, but once I am able to (reasonably) indulge in pasta, this is the first thing I will make!

    Congrats on the new job! Hope you’ll be happy, although I am sure you will be!

  11. #
    Natalie posted February 21, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Sardines must give this pasta such a good flavour, thanks for sharing.

  12. #
    CCU posted February 22, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Your spaghetti looks utterly wonderful :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  13. #
    Sues posted February 22, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Congratulations on your new job!! That’s fabulous! And this is the perfect celebratory dish :)

  14. #
    Rhonda (@diningalone) posted February 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Congrats on your new job! I have some sardines at the house and didn’t really know what I was going to do with them, this is a great dish to try them out.

  15. #
    Sacha posted February 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    As another spaghetti and sardine lover, I say that bowl of ‘yum’ is the perfect way to celebrate a new job. Best of luck to you!

  16. #
    Honey What's Cooking posted February 23, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Never had sardines, but you had me at spaghetti and the pictures are so gorgeous. Delicious!

  17. #
    Simply Life posted February 23, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    congrats on the new job! i’d love to hear more about what field you’re in, etc (but completely understand wanting to keep that private too!…:)

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted February 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Thank you! I’m still in the advertising industry, and now working for a media technology company called Owner IQ :)

  18. #
    Cristina posted February 23, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Bianca this dish looks so good! I love sardines. I’m happy to have a new friend at work with a kick ass blog to follow!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted February 24, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Thank you, Cristina! See you tomorrow :)

  19. #
    Monica posted February 24, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I really want to dig into this pasta right now, despite the early hour! : ) Love the writing and story too. From, another “chocoholic”…

  20. #
    Tiffany @ Snack Snark Bark posted February 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Congrats on the new job!

    This pasta looks amazing even though I’ve never had sardines before (not that I’m aware of at least). But I am a fan of anchovies so I would be willing to try this! Maybe I wont just rush past the canned fish section of the supermarket next time I’m there.

  21. #
    Amy (Savory Moments) posted February 25, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    This spaghetti looks really good – I haven’t tried sardines before, but want to! I actually have a can in the cupboard, so I should try this soon. Best of luck on the new job!

  22. #
    Meghan posted February 25, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Congrats! I hope we can get together soon. I want to hear all about it!
    This recipe looks yummy!

  23. #
    Kerstin posted February 25, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Congrats on your new job!! Apolinaras loves sardines and would gobble this right up – I should make it for him!

  24. #
    Purabi Naha posted February 26, 2013 at 5:26 am

    I loved the statement that jobs are like relationships. Yes, I agree. And congrats on your NEW JOB! The recipe is really really worth trying and I loved your presentation!!

  25. #
    grace posted February 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    i’ve never eaten a sardine in my life, but i can’t give you a reason as to why. your dish is colorful and sounds pretty tasty, assuming i like sardines! :)

  26. #
    Molly Galler posted March 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Bianca – Congratulations on the new job! How exciting. I really love the sentiment of this post and the ode to your BFF. Perfectly said.

  27. #
    ranjani posted March 21, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    This looks fabulous! I have never cooked with sardines but I definitely want to try this

  28. #
    Greggsimeggs posted July 4, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    We are SO going WAY out with Sardines for our BIG DAY!
    SO excited, THANK YOU SO MUCH for all the great Ideas!!!!!!!

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