This dish has become a real foodie memory for us from our trip to Portugal. From Lisbon to Peniche and Porto, grilled sardines were everywhere. Stunningly fresh and lights they are the perfect lunch with a glass of vino verde.

In some places they came very rustic with just plain bread and nothing else. I like the little “something else”. I like my sourdough toasted, maybe a little olive oil and swipe of fresh garlic over the top. The other thing I love is a rich tomato sauce to drizzle over  the top. When I came home I created this recipe and it is stunningly simple, tasty and so versatile. Make a batch and store it in an old jam jar ( sterilised ) or a glass / airtight container for a few days in the fridge. The secret to this is , well, all of it, the large quality of extra virgin olive oil, the plentiful supply of garlic, the cherry tomatoes, that are tinned. So for clarity fresh cherry tomatoes will not do, nor will tinned plum or chopped tomatoes. This only works with the tinned cherry tomatoes. The brown sugar softens away any bitterness and then plenty of sea salt and you are in for such a treat. I hope you love this too.

Mediterranean Cherry Tomato Sauce with Grilled Sardines

Mediterranean Cherry Tomato Sauce with Grilled Sardines

Mediterranean tinned cherry tomato sauce with olive oil, fresh garlic, and brown sugar, served with grilled sardines on sourdough. 
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aisling larkin cherry tomato sauce
grilled sardines
portugal foodie guide
summer food
Prep Time: 10 minutes


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 400 g tinned cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 fresh sardines gutted and cleaned
  • 4 slices sourdough bread


Cherry Tomato Sauce:

  • In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the tinned cherry tomatoes to the saucepan, along with their juices. Stir in the brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will allow the flavours to blend and the sauce to thicken.


  • While the sauce is simmering, prepare the sardines. Season them with salt and pepper. Grill the sardines on the preheated grill or barbecue for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they are cooked through and nicely charred.


  • Toast the sourdough bread slices on the grill or in a toaster until golden brown.
  • Once the sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and taste for seasoning. Adjust the salt and pepper if needed.


  • To serve, place a slice of toasted sourdough bread on each plate. Spoon the cherry tomato sauce generously over the bread. Top with two grilled sardines per plate.Serve the dish immediately while it's still hot. Enjoy.


You can garnish the dish with some fresh herbs like basil or parsley, if desired. Additionally, you can drizzle a little extra olive oil over the sauce before serving for an added touch of richness.