Spaghetti and Sardines with Fennel

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Serves 2-3


200g spaghetti
generous olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small fennel bulb, sliced or diced (optional)
1 tin sardines (in olive oil)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes or to taste (or a fresh chilli)
lots of parsley
squeeze of lemon


Excellent for the sardine shy, here’s a quick classic pasta for classic pasta lovers. It’s the kind of mid-week dinner that just needs a few things from the pantry and the time it takes to sweeten some onions and boil the spaghetti. Fennel is a great extra for this, and things like capers, lemon zest and fried breadcrumbs are welcome here too, but even at it’s most simplest this is a delicious thing. Total sardine, comfort heaven. Add a little crushed tomato or passata to the pan for a red version instead of the fennel. And use a whole pack of spaghetti and double the quantities if you’re feeding a bigger table.

Spaghetti and Sardines with Fennel

Dice the onion and cook on a medium heat with plenty of olive oil. Keep the pan from getting too hot, and the onions from browning – it is a soft and sweet pile of onion we are making. If you’re adding fennel, cook this slowly with the onions.

Somewhere in the stirring of the onions, put a pot of water on to boil. Salt, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, or follow the instructions on the packet.

Once the onion is soft, add the chopped garlic and chilli to cook for another minute, stirring a few times. This is one of the only steps in this recipe, so watch the heat and don’t burn the garlic.

Add the sardines. Gently break them up a little, and let them warm through in the pan for a minute.

Reserve a little pasta liquid, then drain the spaghetti and tip it into the pan. Give it a gentle mix to coat it all, adding a splash of the pasta water if it seems too dry, just to keep it all loose. Top with parsley, cracked pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Serve and enjoy immediately.


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