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Sardine stuffed pasta shells

Prep time
10 mins
Cooking Time
50 mins


  • 150 g watercress (leaves & stems), washed (or spinach)
  • 200 g mascarpone or ricotta cheese
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 3/4 tsp hot chilli flakes
  • 50 g Parmesan cheese, plus extra for finishing
  • 250 g large pasta shells
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 
  • 3 tsp capers
  • 50 g chopped black olives
  • 2 x 400 g cans of chopped tomatoes (polpa ideally)
  • 1 tin MSC certified Cornish Sardine Fillets
  • 1 buffalo mozzarella, broken up 
  • Fresh basil for garnish, optional


For this recipe, you can also be creative with what you've got in the kitchen cupboards and fridge, swapping out a couple of the ingredients for things you do have.

  1. Preheat oven to 200 C / 180 fan.
  2. Fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Fill a bowl with iced water. 
  3. Blanch the watercress in the boiling water until wilted, 15-20 seconds. Using tongues, transfer the watercress to the ice bath to cool. Drain, squeeze out excess water, roughly chop and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the mascarpone, lemon zest, ¼ tsp chilli flakes, black pepper, and parmesan and blend. Season to taste.
  4. Return the saucepan of (watercress) water to the heat, bring to the boil and add 2 tsp salt. Gently add the pasta shells and turn off the heat. Leave for 15 to 20 minutes in the hot water until the shells have softened but are still al dente. Drain, place in bowl and drizzle with olive oil. 
  5. Heat a splash of olive oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and cook gently for 10 mins until very soft. Add the garlic, ½ tsp chilli flakes, capers, olives and chopped tomatoes. Simmer gently for 5 minutes, then add the Cornish Sardine Fillets and stir gently to break them up.
  6. Pour the tomato sauce into the base of a large baking dish. 
  7. Fill each shell with a teaspoon of the watercress mix and place in rows in the sauce. Top with the mozzarella and a grating of parmesan cheese.
  8. Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes until bubbling.
  9. Sprinkle with basil and serve.