Spaghetti Sardines

A quick, easy meal of spaghetti and canned sardines. The sardines are sautéed in spices for a Javanese touch, then tossed with the spaghetti.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Spaghetti sardines is one of my weekday staples. When I’m busy, hungry and in need of something easy, but delicious and satisfying, I’ll turn to it. The dish doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, complicated cooking techniques nor long cooking time, but it never fails to comfort me and make me feel content.

Spaghetti sardines is basically cooked spaghetti tossed in tumis sardines. It’s an experimental dish that was born out of necessity. It’s the dish you make when all you have on hand are nothing but a can of sardines and spaghetti. 

Though we can literally just throw a can of sardines over cooked spaghetti, this recipe elevates it by putting a bit of effort into cooking the canned sardines over sautéed fresh garlic, chillies, tomatoes and shallots, to give it a slightly Javanese twist. All the ingredients are gently cooked until the sauce is fragrant and reduced, the spices perfectly infused.

To add some freshnes and color, at the end of the cooking, I also put in some additional cherry tomatoes. These little red tomatoes really make the dish appear much more vibrant, fresh and appetizing. Flavour wise, it makes it taste lighter too. 

Though optional, I would highly recommend adding some heat to the dish to give it more kick, such as chopped bird’s eye chillies (as stated in the recipe) or a sprinkle of dried red hot chilli flakes/peperoncino. It will surely give a punch of joy for the spice lover!

Always stock up on canned sardines and spaghetti, I would say. They are the ultimate rescue team in time of need, and leave our tummy smiling happily. 

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Spaghetti Sardines

Spaghetti Sardines

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Rice & Noodles, Fish & Seafood
  • Method: Sautéing
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal


Spaghetti sardines is a quick and easy meal made of spaghetti and canned sardines. The sardines are sautéed in spices for a Javanese touch, and then tossed with the spaghetti.


  • 250 spaghetti
  • 1 can of sardines in tomato sauce (around 425 gr)
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled, thinly sliced
  • 3 small shallots (or a small red onion), peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 small tomato, sliced in wedges
  • 1/4 tsp white ground pepper
  • 2 big red chillies, sliced
  • 1 bird’s eyes chilli, sliced (optional)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, halved


  1. In a wok, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté the sliced garlic and shallots for 2 minutes.

    Sauté the sliced garlic and shallots for 2 minutes.

  3. Add the chillies and tomatoes. Cook for another 2 minutes until fragrant.

    Add the chillies and tomatoes.

  4. Put in the canned sardines, add white pepper and salt. Gently stir to mix all the ingredients, being careful not to break the fish.

    Put in the canned sardines

  5. Continue to simmer until the sauce thickens, around 10 minutes.
  6. Cook the spaghetti according to the packaging instructions.
  7. Toss the spaghetti with the sardines, and garnish with fresh tomatoes for extra freshness.
  8. Serve immediately.


  • A drizzle of freshly squeezed lemon juice is also a great addition to the dish.
  • As long as canned sardines and spaghetti are present, missing one or two ingredients is OK. This is an experimental dish. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Keywords: Quick and Easy, Experimental, Spicy

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