Serves 2

This pasta is perfect for when summer is at its peak and tomatoes from the market are sweet and juicy. It gets an umami punch from both the tinned mackerel and the Parmesan cheese. There is nothing sadder than pregrated Parmesan cheese, so splurge for a chunk. Grate it over the fettuccine before serving, using the small holes on a box grater or a Microplane.


  • 6 ounces (170 g) fettuccine

    Magic of Tinned Fish Bookcover The Magic of Tinned Fish: Elevate Your Cooking with Canned Anchovies, Sardines, Mackerel, Crab, and Other Amazing Seafood Chris McDade
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 cup (145 g) Sun Gold tomatoes, halved

  • One 4.4-ounce (125 g) tin mackerel

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 heaping tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat for the pasta. This can take up to 20 minutes, depending on your stove. Use this time to gather the rest of your ingredients.

Add enough salt to the boiling water so that it reminds you of a less salty sea. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, stirring the pasta every 2 minutes or so to ensure that it doesn’t stick together. Taste a noodle a minute or so before the end of the suggested cooking time to ensure that your pasta comes out al dente.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. As soon as the oil reaches its smoke point, carefully add the tomatoes. (All liquid fats including olive oil have a smoke point; some oils have higher smoke points than others, which means some are better for cooking at higher temperatures.) Cook the tomatoes for 2 minutes, tossing every 20 seconds or so. Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the pasta cooking water and remove the pan from the heat. Using the back of a fork, press down on the tomatoes. You are trying to get most of the juice out of the tomatoes to lay the foundation for the sauce.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan of simmering tomato sauce. Stir the pasta into the sauce and reduce the sauce by three-quarters, giving the pan a few flips along the way. Add the mackerel, taking care to keep the fillets whole.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and basil. Stir and flip the pasta in the pan until the butter is melted, the mackerel fillets have begun to fall apart, and the sauce is emulsified. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan, and stir until incorporated.

Divide the pasta between two bowls and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan.

Excerpted from The Magic of Tinned Fish by Chris McDade (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2021. Photographs by Dana Gallagher.

When you shop using our links, we earn a small commission. It’s a great way to support public media at no extra cost to you!