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This Seafood Macaroni and Cheese with Sardines is loaded with high-quality sardines, along with creamy Jarlsberg and Parmesan cheeses, and is an easy and flavorful side dish.
This post is sponsored by King Oscar.
I’ve got a fish tale to tell you– a story with long, winding roads, adventures on foot, and backpacking through canyons. Unlike most fish tales, which end in stories of giant, monstrous sea creatures– mine ends with tins and tins of tiny fish.
For two years in a row, the husband and I have gone on epic, multi-week National Park hiking adventures— driving thousands of miles, hiking until our feet were angry and our legs were worn out, and then we hiked some more.
When we started our adventures, I knew we’d need shelf-stable, protein-packed food, so I packed tuna. Lots and lots of tuna.
Three weeks worth of tuna.
I didn’t make the same mistake when I packed for trip number two.
This past summer, as I loaded up on food to carry us through all of our camping and backpacking, I wandered uncertainly back into the canned fish aisle. As I stared at the tuna, my eyes wandered over to all of the other cans of fish that I’d been neglecting.
Sardines, mackerel, kippers… these fish would, and did, rescue me from my tuna-fatigue.
After this summer’s camping trip ended, and I no longer needed to hoard cans of fish– I kept doing it anyway.
These tiny fish are delicious, fabulous for stocking pantries, and easy to use. In this Baked Seafood Macaroni and Cheese, the sardines shine through in a blend of flavorful cheeses and pasta.
Want more sardine recipes ideas? Read this: How to Eat Canned Sardines
Which Sardines Taste the Best?
Have you tried sardines yet?
If you haven’t, or if you have had them, but didn’t like them– you should know that not all sardines are created equal! In fact, the term “sardine” actually refers to the way the fish are treated and packaged, and can be made up of 22 different types of fish!
What does that mean for you?
It means that different brands of sardines will taste– well, they’ll taste different from one another!
My own sardine-loving enthusiasm was almost brought to a screeching halt when I had a tin of not-so-wonderful sardines, and that’s when I realized that the brand you buy matters. It matters a lot.
Want more canned fish tips? Check out this Ultimate Guide to Canned Fish.
Now I get my sardines from King Oscar.
King Oscar’s Wild Caught Brisling Sardines are high-quality, plus they’re all from the same type of small fish, so you’ll know what to expect.
These little fish are responsibly sourced from Norwegian waters, and are hand-packed into recyclable tins. (Oh, plus they’re deeeeeelicious!)
Want to Try King Oscar’s seafood? Use their store finder.
Love sardines? Try these too: Mini Sardine Fish Cakes, Pasta con le Sarde, Fish Tikka Masala, and Fish Balls: Albondigas de Pescado.
Making Baked Seafood Macaroni and Cheese
For this Baked Seafood Macaroni and Cheese, we’re using Norwegian sardines, and I thought it would be fun to put a Nordic spin on this very cheesy dish.
So– I bought Jarlsberg, a type of Norwegian Swiss cheese that melts particularly well.
If you can’t find Jarlsberg, or just prefer to use Swiss cheese– that will work too! You’ll also need a wedge of Parmesan cheese.
To make your baked mac and cheese, start cooking the pasta in a pot of boiling water. While it cooks, you’re going to make the cheese sauce.
Start by melting butter, and then add a little flour. Stir it together until the flour has absorbed all the butter, and then start whisking in cream. Once the sauce is smooth, without any lumps, add the milk and whisk some more.
Finally, add in your freshly grated cheese, and continue to whisk until everything is melted and smooth.
Next, add a little Old Bay seasoning and some salt to the sauce. Taste it as you season, and make sure you like the flavor.
If it seems bland, add a little more salt. If you want more flavor, add a little more Old Bay.
When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it, and then scoop your pasta into a small casserole dish. Take the sardines out of the tin, and discard the oil.
Flake them apart with a fork, and scatter them over the pasta. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, and stir to blend everything together.
Bake your seafood mac and cheese for about 20 minutes, or until it’s golden and bubbly.
If you’re in a hurry, or just prefer your mac and cheese extra creamy, skip the baking, and set the dish under the broiler instead. Watch it carefully so that it doesn’t burn, and let it broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the top begins to turn golden.
Serve your sardine macaroni and cheese while it’s still warm, either as a side dish or on its own, and enjoy!
Quick Tip: Make sure you’re using Freshly Grated Cheese, because pre-grated cheeses include stabilizers that will keep the cheese from melting as easily.
Want something LIGHT and GREEN to serve with this mac? Try these:
- Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apple Cider Vinegar
- Green Bean Salad with Almonds
- Braised Kale with Apple Cider Vinegar
Seafood Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 ½ cups dry elbow macaroni OR pipe rigate
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup milk (not skim)
- 3 ounces Jarlsberg OR Swiss cheese, freshly shredded
- 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly shredded
- 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 4 ounces sardines packed in olive oil (1 tin) King Oscar Brisling Sardines recommended
- Optional garnish: fresh basil leaves, torn or cut into small pieces
- Preheat Oven to 350ºF. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Begin cooking pasta in water according to package directions.
- In a small heavy bottomed pot, melt butter over medium heat. Once butter has melted, but before it begins to brown, whisk flour into the butter until the flour has absorbed the butter. Add cream, and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and is smooth. Add the milk, and continue to whisk.
- Add the Jarlsberg (or Swiss) and Parmesan to the pot, and continue whisking until all the cheese has melted into a smooth, creamy sauce. Add the Old Bay and salt.
- Drain pasta, and scoop pasta into a small casserole dish, such as an 8″x8″ dish.
- Remove sardines from the can, discarding packing liquid. Flake sardines apart with a fork, and scatter over the pasta. Pour cheese sauce over the pasta, and stir to incorporate the sardines and cheese.
- Bake 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and the top has begun to brown. Alternatively, for an extra creamy pasta, skip the baking, and broil the pasta for 2-3 minutes until the top is golden.
- Garnish with basil if desired, and serve immediately.
Dawn - Girl Heart Food
22 types of fish?! Wow! Who would have thought? I love sardines and eat them on the regular. I never thought of preparing them like this before and I know I have to put this on the menu cos hubby is a huge fan of ’em too! So good for ya! YUMMY recipe Sarah!
I didn’t realize until recently either!! And yay for sardines! Enjoy 😀
I am so into macaroni and cheese made all the ways and this looks like it could become a new favorite! That sauce looks luscious. I’m going to look for the King Oscar sardines at my market. They look like such a high quality sardine and perfect for this recipe.
Cheeeeeeeese! 😀 Enjoy! And yup- they have the most gorgeous sardines 🙂
You are so creative, Sarah! Your mac and cheese looks absolutely decadent! Would you believe — I’ve never tried sardines? Ever. Anchovies, yes. Sardines, no. But I love that shimmery skin and the way you’ve introduced them into this homestyle favorite, though… Looks like a winner to me!
Oh Lisa you’ve gotta try them out!!! You’re the seafood queen!
While Im a little nervous about sardines, my husband LOVES LOVES LOVES them! He usually just eats them out of the can. I can’t wait to surprise him with this filling pasta…. he’s going to be one happy camper!
I have honestly never had a sardine. But this mac and cheese – oh mama does it look great! I would happily try sardines for a bowl of this!
You should give them a shot! They’re so affordable and yummy!
I NEVER would have thought to add sardines to mac and cheese, but now that I’ve seen it I want it SO BAD!
LOL.. Do it!!! It’s YUMMMM
This is just absolutely crazy scrumptious! I’ve never added fish, specifically sardines, to my mac and cheese but I’m sure it tastes delicious!
I grew up eating tuna in my mac and cheese- this is even better!
Meg | Meg is Well
The best marinara sauce I ever made had a sardine in it so it makes sense that sardines would make a cheese sauce taste even more awesome. I’m all for this!
My dad loves sardines and I bet he would be all about this seafood mac & cheese!
This looks so delicious! I’ve recently become very obsessed with Mac&Cheese! Now I can’t wait to give this recipe a try, bet my family will love it!