This delicious and easy pasta with sardines recipe combines simple pantry staples — pasta, sardines, capers, and breadcrumbs — with fresh flavours — lemon and parsley.
This Sicilian pasta dish may vary from region to region, but the basic ingredients are essentially the same: sardines, capers, lemon and toasted breadcrumbs. In my version, I first sauté shallots and onion and then add some dry white wine along with the sardines, anchovies and capers (and a pinch of chilli flakes) for a rich tasting sauce that is finished off with freshly squeezed lemon juice and Italian parsley. And finally to bring it all together, toasted breadcrumbs are tossed with the pasta before serving. The result is a deliciously simple pasta dish.
Pasta Con le Sarde
Other variations you will find in Sicily are Pasta Con le Sarde which in addition to the sardines, includes regional ingredients like wild fennel, saffron, pine nuts, and raisins. An equally delicious and very intriguing Sicilian pasta recipe. However, what I particularly love about this simplified version is that it is also pleasing for family members who eat fish, but don’t particularly like fennel or raisins (i.e. teenagers). And since the taste of sardines can easily be mistaken for canned tuna, this was an easy win.
Ingredients tips for this Sicilian pasta with sardines recipe
- Pasta: Usually a long pasta like spaghetti would be used for this type of recipe, however I like to use Strozzapreti which is a short twirled pasta. (kurze geschwungene Pasta aus dem nördlichen Italien)
- Sardines & Anchovies: I recommend using boneless, skinless sardines packed in olive oil (Sardinenfilet in nativem Olivenöl extra). Be sure by a high-quality product as they will have a clean, subtle fish flavor that resembles canned albacore tuna. I also like to use anchovies in this recipe, which are a smaller version in the same fish family, as they have a rich umami flavor and add another level of flavor to this dish. The are more salty and intensively flavoured than sardines and intended only for flavourings so not much is needed. (Anchovis werden allgemein die Europäischen Sardellen bezeichnet, die in salzige oder … Sardellen, die filetiert, eingesalzen und fermentiert wurden)
- Panko or homemade breadcrumbs: Light and crispy, Japanese panko breadcrumbs are a terrific choice for pasta dishes. Otherwise, coarsely chopped, homemade breadcrumbs are since they they stay crispy after being tossed with the other ingredients.
- Capers: Their deliciously briny flavor complement both the sardines and the lemon beautifully.
- Lemon: The flavor of both freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest add brightness and aroma that balances out the other flavours.
- Parsley: A handful of fresh parsley added before serving adds more bright flavours and freshness.
If you like this recipe, then you might like:
- Roasted Cauliflower Pasta Salad with Chickpeas, Lemon and Toasted Panko
- Pasta with Smoked Sardines and Lemon
- Pasta Puttanesca: Tuna, Olives and Capers in a Tomato Sauce
Sicilian Pasta with Sardines, Capers & Breadcrumbs
For the breadcrumbs:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (30 g)
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, from an organic lemon
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the pasta:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup white wine (125 ml)
- 4 anchovies, finely chopped (alternatively anchovy paste)
- 1 x can 100 g boneless skinless sardines in olive oil, drained
- Pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons capers (in brine), drained
- juice from 1/2 a lemon or more, to taste
- 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 500 g dried pasta of choice
- Lemon wedges, for serving
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add panko and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Wipe skillet clean.
Return the pan to the stove and add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallots and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until just softened, then and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
Add the wine, cook until reduced slightly, then add the capers, anchovies and sardines, breaking them apart gently with a wooden spoon. Cook just long enough to heat through, 2-3 minutes, then add the lemon juice.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions, until al dente. Just before draining, scoop out 1/2 cup (125 ml) of of the pasta cooking water.
Add the pasta to the sardine mixture, along some of the reserved cooking water (1/3 or more) to the pasta and toss well to combine. Add a little more liquid if needed.
Add most of the parsley and toasted bread crumbs; toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve into bowls and garnish with the remaining parsley and bread crumbs. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.
- For recipes like this one, I use my favorite Farchioni Olii SpA extra-virgin olive oil . The oil is heat-resistant and is well suited for roasting, frying and also in salads.
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