Mackerel Pantry Pasta

Whether it’s mackerel, tuna, sardines, or trout that floats your boat in the tinned fish aisle, a couple of cans of good-quality fish turn a bare-bones pasta into something company-worthy. Tinned fish most often comes packed in either water or olive oil; we prefer them oil-packed because they’re much more flavorful out of the can. (Patagonia Provisions makes an especially delicious tinned mackerel in flavors like lemon caper and Spanish paprika.) The technique for this no-cook sauce, in which you warm the tinned fish in a heatproof bowl set over your pasta pot as the water boils, is borrowed from Joie Warner’s No-Cook Pasta Sauces, and ensures the fish won’t dry out or become tough.

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4 Servings


4-oz. cans boneless mackerel in olive oil or other high-quality tinned fish (such as sardines or tuna in olive oil), drained


garlic clove, finely grated


tsp. finely grated lemon zest


Tbsp. fresh lemon juice


Tbsp. coarsely chopped drained capers


Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling


tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more

Freshly ground black pepper


oz. spaghetti or other long pasta


Tbsp. finely grated Parmesan

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Chopped parsley and lemon wedges (optional; for serving)


Step 1

Place mackerel, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, capers, 3 Tbsp. oil, and ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt in a large heatproof bowl. Season generously with pepper and toss to combine.

Step 2

Set bowl over a large pot of generously salted water (bottom of bowl should not be touching water) and bring water to a boil. Carefully remove bowl from pot and set aside. (Gently warming the ingredients here allows them to mingle nicely with the hot pasta later.)

Step 3

Cook pasta in same pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Using tongs, transfer pasta, along with any water clinging to strands, to bowl with mackerel mixture. Add Parmesan, red pepper flakes, and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid to bowl and toss pasta with tongs, adding more pasta cooking liquid by the tablespoonful if needed, until cheese is melted and pasta is coated evenly in sauce, about 1 minute.

Step 4

Divide pasta among bowls. Top with parsley, drizzle some oil over, and season with more pepper. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over if desired.


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