SMASH'ing Diet: Sardine, spinach and fennel spaghetti, infused with lemon


Or, as the Sicilians call it Pasta con le sarde!

This light, zingy pasta dish is packed with omega-3 essential fatty acids, thanks to the silvery, oily sardines. Did you know that sardines have a higher calcium content than dairy products? They're brilliant for brain and heart function, and thought to be beneficial in lowering the risk of heart disease too.  Added nutritional benefits coming from the spinach and fennel include: Vitamins, fibre, folate, protein and potassium.

Traditionally, made with fish freshly plucked from the sea, using tinned sardines makes this dish a speedy weeknight winner.


Serves:          4 - 6

Prep time:     10 minutes

Cook time:    20 minutes

sardines with spinach and fennel.jpg


  • 4 fairly large ripe tomatoes (200g total)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 120g tin of sardine fillets in oil, from sustainable sources, drained
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • splash of white wine (optional)
  • 200g baby spinach
  • 400g wholewheat spaghetti
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 2 lemons
  • 20g ricotta cheese (ricotta salata if you can find it is even better, a firm, pressed ricotta, which you can grate into the dish)
  • 100g pine nuts lightly toasted
  • A pinch of dried red chilli flakes
  • grated parmesan to serve
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Halve the tomatoes, scoop out and discard the seeds, then place in a blender, with the chopped garlic. Add the sardines and olive oil (if sardines are in sunflower oil drain them and replace the oil with olive oil), then blitz until super smooth, adding a splash of water (or white wine) to loosen, if required.
  2. Roughly chop the spinach, place in a colander in the sink. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions.
  3. Pick and reserve any of the fennel fronds from the top, then very finely slice the stalks and bulb. Add the fennel to the spaghetti pan for the last few minutes of cooking.
  4. Reserve a mugful of cooking water, drain the spaghetti and fennel over the spinach in the colander, so that the spinach starts to wilt. Return the pasta, fennel and spinach to the pan, and toss with the sardine sauce.
  5. Squeeze in the juice from one of the lemons, loosen the pasta with a splash of the reserved cooking water, if needed.
  6. Season with sea salt and black pepper, blend in the ricotta and a little lemon zest, then sprinkle over the toasted pine kernels, chilli flakes,fennel tops, and grated parmesan cheese.
  7. Cut the remaining lemon into wedges for squeezing over, then serve immediately.


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