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, but as always, all opinions are my own.
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.
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 smack-dead-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.
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.
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.
Quick Tip: If you want to use Jarlsberg, but aren’t sure where to get it, try looking at any grocery store near you that sells imported or gourmet cheeses– it’s usually not hard to find, even in smaller towns.
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.
Seafood Macaroni and Cheese
This Baked 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.
- 1 1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni OR pipe rigate
- 2 TB butter
- 1 TB flour
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup milk (not skim)
- 3 oz Jarlsberg OR Swiss cheese, freshly shredded
- 3 oz Parmesan cheese, freshly shredded
- 2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 2 tsp salt (to taste)
- 1 tin sardines (~4oz) 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, to taste.
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.
Make Ahead: This pasta bake can be prepared and placed into the dish the day before, but wait until right before serving to bake.
Double or Triple Recipe: This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to feed a bigger crowd. If you're using a deeper pasta dish, you'll need to increase the cook time.