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What To Do With Canned Sardines

Sardines fra diavolo on a platter with bread and herbs

Sardines Fra Diavolo

You’ve probably seen these canned fish on the grocery store shelf, and like most people you’ve probably wondered what to do with canned sardines. It’s a reasonable thought, they haven’t gotten quite the marketing push that other tinned fish like tuna and salmon, or even anchovies have gotten.

So, today we’re going to jump into what I consider the best way to use canned sardines, and that’s in this spicy sauce, served as an appetizer with toasted Italian bread.

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What Is Fra Diavolo Sauce?

Fra Diavolo sauce is a spicy Italian tomato sauce with a kick. It typically gets its spiciness from red pepper flakes or chili peppers. This sauce is made by simmering tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs, in olive oil.

What makes it fiery in this recipe, is the addition of crushed Calabrian chilis. The heat level can vary from mild to super hot, depending on how much pepper you use, so go easy and taste before adding more.

red sauce cooking in stainless steel skillet

Fra Diavolo sauce is often served with seafood, like shrimp or lobster, but in this case, we’re using sardines in the tomato sauce.

Serve it with a pasta dish, or just with some good bread as an appetizer for some fiery flavor that will wake up your taste buds.

What’s the Difference Between Sardines and Anchovies?

Sardines and anchovies are both small fish that are often found in a can, but they have some distinct differences. Sardines are slightly larger and have a milder, less intense flavor compared to anchovies. Anchovies are smaller and have a stronger, salty taste.

Sardines are usually served whole, while anchovies are often minced into a paste and used on salads, sandwiches, etc – think Caesar dressing. So, sardines are bigger and more mild, while anchovies are smaller and saltier. I strongly prefer the sardines from Safe Catch, they just taste cleaner than others I’ve tasted.

sardines in a spicy red sauce on a platter

Tips For Making Sardines Fra Diavolo

The Oil: Be sure to use the oil in the cans for the sauce. It’s full of flavor.
The Fish: If you like them warm, you can add them to the simmering sauce. I prefer them at room temp with a hot sauce and toast.
The Salt: The fish, and olives are salty already, so taste as you go when seasoning the sauce so it doesn’t get too salty.
The Dish: Preheat your serving dish in order to help keep the sauce warm. A cold platter will cool the sauce down quickly.

overhead shot of sardines fra diavolo on a platter with herbs

How To Make Sardines Fra Diavolo

Serves: 8 | Prep Time: 15 mins. | Cook Time: 15 mins

Ingredients
1 4.4oz cans Safe Catch Wild Caught Sardines in Oil
½ cup spanish onion, diced
1 tsp smoked paprika
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cup crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup black olives, chopped
1 tsp crushed Calabrian chili peppers
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped and divided
3 sprigs thyme
8-10 slices Italian bread, toasted

Step 1: Open the sardines and drain the oil into a skillet. Carefully remove the sardines and set aside. Heat oil over medium high heat until it shimmers.

oil pouring from a sardine can into a skillet

Step 2: Add onions to the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the smoked paprika, chilis, and garlic. Continue to cook while stirring for 45 seconds or until garlic is fragrant.

onions cooking in oil in a skillet

Step 3: Add the crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper, and olives; mix well to incorporate. 

salt and pepper added to fra diavolo sauce in a pan

Step 4: Add one tablespoon of chopped parsley and incorporate into the sauce, stirring until it just starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

fra diavolo sauce garnished with fresh parsley

Step 5: Place the sauce on a warm serving dish, top with sardines and garnish remaining parsley and thyme. Serve with toast points.   

sardines fra diavolo on a white platter

Sardines Fra Diavolo

5 from 4 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 4.4 oz can Canned Sardines In oil
  • ½ cup spanish onion diced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • cup black olives chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed Calabrian chilis
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped & divided
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8-10 slices Italian bread toasted

Instructions

  • Open the sardines and drain the oil into a skillet. Carefully remove the sardines and set aside. Heat oil over medium high heat until it shimmers.
  • Add onions to the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the smoked paprika, chilis,and garlic. Continue to cook while stirring for 45 seconds or until garlic is fragrant.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes and olives; mix well.
  • Season the sauce with salt and pepper, adding more to taste. Add one tablespoon of chopped parsley and incorporate into the sauce, stirring until it just starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Place the sauce on a warm serving dish, top with sardines and garnish remaining parsley and thyme. Serve with toast points.

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