Fish + Seafood / Food / Main Dishes / Pescetarian

Lemon Pepper Pasta with King Oscar Sardines

This bright and lemony pasta is tossed with garlic, lemon juice, arugula, and peppery sardines. It’s the perfect pantry-friendly weeknight meal clocking in at less than 30 minutes!

Pasta stired up in a pan with arugula and toasted breadcrumbs.

This post is sponsored by King Oscar | Thank you for supporting the brands I trust.

Close up of pasta twirled onto a plate.


Taking pantry staples to a new level.

When we think of meals made up of pantry staples, we think of bean-heavy chilis; we think pre-made marinara dumped over pasta and packaged Ramen floating in a pool of sodium. But this recipe sheds some light on canned seafood—and we’re not talking about a dumpy tuna noodle casserole. (Though some days, dumpy food is all we crave.) King Oscar’s Brisling Sardines with Spicy Cracked Pepper are the perfect addition to pasta. Add some garlic, lemon juice, and peppery arugula, and you’ve got a simple dinner that’s delicious and packed with Omega-3.

Plate of twirled pasta with package of King Oscar sardines next to it.

Ingredients needed for this pasta + adaptations.

Overhead shot of package of KO sardines and other ingredients for pasta laid out on marble counter.

The point of creating a meal made up of pantry staples is ease and accessibility. All this recipe calls for is:

  • King Oscar’s Brisling Sardines with Spicy Cracked Pepper
  • Pasta—long or short, anything goes!
  • Arugula
  • Red onion
  • Garlic
  • Lemon juice
  • Cracked pepper
  • Parmesan
  • Toasted breadcrumbs

However, all of these ingredients are flexible. You can swap out the arugula for baby spinach or kale, use a yellow or vidalia onion instead of red, and if you can’t find King Oscar’s sardines with cracked pepper, other variations can work. (See our recipe notes.)

How do you make pasta with sardines?

This pasta dish is beyond simple; it’s a total dump and toss. Cook your pasta, simmer your other ingredients in a different pan, dump your cooked pasta into that pan, and toss to coat. Since the protein is ready to eat straight out of the can, cooking time is short. Here’s the rundown:

  • Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packaging; set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and simmer until tender and fragrant.
  • Add the drained sardines to the pan and break them down into chunks with a spatula. Simmer until the sardines are warmed up.
  • Dump the cooked pasta into the pan and toss to evenly distribute the onions, garlic, and sardines. Add the lemon juice, a few handfuls of fresh arugula, grated parm, and a generous amount of cracked black pepper, and continue to toss to evenly distribute all of those flavors; salt as needed.
  • Finally, sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs over the pasta. Give it a quick toss, and serve immediately.

Arugula being tossed into pan of cooked pasta.

Sardines with Spicy Cracked Pepper are a HIT.

You’ll never meet a sardine that packs more flavor than King Oscar’s sardines, and these fillets are no exception. They’re hand-packed in top-grade extra virgin olive oil with a punchy mix of black, white, green, and red whole and cracked peppercorns. You can use them as a topper for crackers, salads, and stuff them into sandwiches—but tossed into this lemon pepper pasta dish is our favorite way to eat them. It’s also reassuring that these tiny fish are sustainably caught in Norway’s fjords and coastal waters, so you can feel good about the fish you’re eating.

Hope you love this!

If you plan on making this recipe, be sure to snap a pic and tag us on Insta! @killing__thyme.

Other recipes with brisling sardines:

Lemon Pepper Pasta with Sardines twirled onto a plate with bright green arugula.
Print Pin
5 from 1 vote

Lemon Pepper Pasta with King Oscar Sardines

This bright and lemony pasta is tossed with garlic, lemon juice, arugula, and peppery sardines. It's the perfect pantry-friendly weeknight meal clocking in at less than 30 minutes!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian, Pescetarian
Keyword 20 minute dinner, easy, Pasta, pescetarian, Sardines
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Dana Sandonato


  • 6 oz spaghetti
  • 1 can King Oscar Brisling Sardines with Spicy Cracked Pepper, drained See notes.
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino romano (optional)
  • 3 heaping handfuls or baby arugula
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • A generous amount of cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup toasted panko breadcrumbs See notes.


  • Cook spaghetti as per the directions on the package; set aside.
  • In the meantime, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt, and simmer until tender and fragrant—about 3 minutes.
  • Add the drained sardines to the skillet and flake them into chunks with a spatula or spoon; stir to mix.
  • Once the sardines are just warmed through, which should only take about 2 minutes, transfer the cooked pasta to the skillet; toss to coat. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, parmesan, arugula, and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Toss again to even distribute the ingredients. Taste, and add salt as needed.
  • Finally, toss in the toasted breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.


If you can't find King Oscar's Brisling Sardines with Spicy Cracked Pepper, you could use other variations, such as the brisling sardines in extra virgin olive oil or Mediterranean style.
To toast breadcrumbs, simply dump the breadcrumbs into a dry pan. Heat the pan on the stove over medium heat, occasionally tossing the breadcrumbs around to prevent burning, until they're toasty and golden. This should take about five minutes, but keep a close eye on them.


  • Dave From Marley Mill
    June 28, 2020 at 6:24 pm

    5 stars
    Well, Killing Thyme has came out with another winner; “Lemon Pepper Pasta with King Oscar Sardines”, mercy, it is good! I fixed myself an early supper since after I got started cutting things up, I got hungry. The wife is out of town and not fond of King Oscars, outstanding sardines so it was all for tye best. I couldn’t find the King Oscar Sardines with Cracked Pepper in my One-Horse town, so I used the Mediterranean ones. I added some sweet peppers and used fresh spinach since that is what I had, and I’m not sure what an Arugula is. :) The recipe called for 6 Oz of pasta and I thought that seemed like a lot but if you’re a real pasta lover it’s likely OK, but next time I’ll use half as much. Also, I’ll add more spinach next time. FWIW: I have never, ever followed a recipie to the letter, my best ones are tweaked and tuned after several tries. You have to give ths one a try! FWIW; I posted this on King Oscar’s FB page.

    • Killing Thyme
      June 28, 2020 at 8:24 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Dave! And your tweaks sound fantastic! I’m always happy to serve as a base for someone’s creativity :) Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving feedback. Great to see your name pop up here as I recognize you from the KO fan page!


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