Sicilian Pasta with Sardines

Pasta tossed with sardines, toasted breadcrumbs and onions is an easy, authentic Italian recipe that originates from the island of Sicily.

Sicilian Pasta with Sardines



  1. Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
  2. Open the sardines, drain the olive oil into a frying pan and set the sardines aside.
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute.
  4. Add the breadcrumbs, season lightly with salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are lightly toasted and crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the crumbs to a plate and set aside.
  5. Return the pan to the stove and add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté until soft and slightly caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Add the sardines, break them apart gently and cook just long enough to heat through, 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in the lemon zest, parsley, crushed red pepper and capers, remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
  8. Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain and return to the pan.
  9. Add the sardine mixture along with half of the reserved cooking liquid to the pasta. Toss to combine, adjust the seasoning and add a little more liquid if needed.
  10. Add the breadcrumbs, toss again and serve immediately.

Note: This recipe can easily be doubled.


Recipe Notes:

We generally like to use stale Italian bread (crust included) to make the crumbs for this recipe. Depending on the diameter of the loaf, 2 to 3 slices make about 3/4 cup of crumbs.

If your bread is fresh, you’ll need to dry it in a 300°F oven for about 10 minutes or toast it on the very lightest setting.

Most of the time we keep a bag of “fresh” breadcrumbs in the freezer, but if we just need enough for a dish like this, a few pulses in our favorite mini food processor does the trick.