Sardines with Kale and Pasta

This classic Mediterranean treat combines the healthy, inexpensive fish with delicious greens and pasta.

pasta and sardines

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Budget-friendly sardines are a delicious, healthy, and safe seafood option that are too often overlooked. The little fish are full of omega-3 fats, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium. Low on the food chain, sardines eat plants, not other fish, so they don’t have the mercury and other potential toxic load of some seafood.

This recipe calls for sardines packed in tomato sauce, but you can also use those packed in olive oil (this will result in a little more fat). If you can find fresh sardines, you may remove the bones by splitting or butterflying them. But you don’t have to debone them. Gently rub off the scales, remove the head and innards with a small paring knife and rinse. Then they are ready to cook.

One note of caution if you are using fresh sardines: These little fish can easily spoil if stored too long, even in the freezer. So use them within one or two days.

Sardines with Kale and Pasta
(Makes 4 servings)
pasta and sardines


  • 8 kale leaves, stems removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8-ounce whole-grain penne cooked according to package instructions (other short or long pasta may be substituted)
  • 12-ounce canned sardines packed in tomato sauce (can sizes typically vary from 3.75 to 4 ounces and larger)*
  • 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated (pecorino may be substituted)

*Sardines canned in olive oil or cooked fresh sardines may be used with ½ cup tomato sauce.


  1. In large covered pot steam kale in 1/2-inch water until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
  2. In large saucepan over medium heat add oil, garlic, kale, and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Sauté mixture until kale wilts, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta and stir gently until heated through.
  4. Spoon mixture on four plates and arrange sardines on top. Dust with cheese and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts

Per serving

Calories: 380
Total fat: 13 g
Saturated fat: 3.5 g
Carbohydrate: 41 g
Fiber: 7 g
Protein: 28 g
Sodium: 449 mg

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