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Pantry Raid Tinned Fish Pasta

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

There are plenty of reasons to keep a well-stocked pantry, but this lil' recipe right here is one of my favorites. It's made with ingredients I almost certainly have in my pantry and/or fridge at all times, is jam-packed with flavor, and comes together in the amount of time it takes to boil some pasta. In other words, it's a perfect weeknight meal.

While you probably always have some canned tuna (usually packed in water in the US) in your pantry, high quality tinned fish is having its MOMENT right now, which makes it the perfect time to branch out. My absolute favorites to keep on hand are sardines in olive oil. Not only is the fish itself delicate and super flavorful, but the oil it's packed in is perfectly suited for a dish like this. If all you've got is tuna packed in water, don't fret. Just drain the can and add a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the bowl.

Let's get cooking shall we?

pasta recipe

Pantry Raid Tinned Fish Pasta

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 pound short dried pasta of choice

  • 2 4-ounce cans of tinned fish in olive oil (sardines, tuna, and/or mackerel)

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and coarsely chopped

  • 1/4 cup pitted olives (I like black or kalamata for this recipe), coarsely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon Sgt. Lemon Pepper spice blend

  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving

  • Minced fresh parsley, for serving (optional)


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is boiling, place tinned fish (with the oil), garlic, capers, olives, Sgt. Lemon Pepper, and 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano in a large heat-safe (metal or glass are best) mixing bowl and roughly mash it all together with the back of a spoon. Turn the heat down under the pot of pasta and place the mixing bowl on top of the pot, allowing the heat from the boiling water to gently warm the oil and other ingredients. Set the bowl aside and turn heat back up under pot to finish cooking the pasta. When the pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water, and add hot pasta directly to the bowl. Stir to coat, adding a couple of tablespoons at a time of the hot pasta water until you reach a saucy consistency. Season to taste with additional Sgt. Lemon Pepper. Serve immediately, topped with more cheese and a little fresh parsley, if desired.

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