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!