Weirdly-Awesome, Awesomely-Weird Dinner For One

When I was growing up, my whole family ate dinner together at 5:00 p.m. most nights. But every once in a while, when I was a little older, I’d find myself in the house by myself, and that’s when I’d make weird stuff for dinner. Like a whole box of Steak-Umms (liberally sprinkled with garlic salt and browned in a pan until crispy) and a few Eggo waffles, burnt and slathered with butter. With maybe half a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos for dessert. Those were the days.

Things are a little bit different in the kitchen now.

As you know from Well Fed and this blog, I la-la-love a theme dinner or international dinner party. But when I’m cooking for myself — in my pajamas, maybe watching Midsomer Murders with my plate in my lap and Smudge next to me — I don’t worry too much about food making sense together on the plate. I just eat whatever I feel like at that moment — which means it’s usually weird sh*t that would make Dave’s blood run cold. Chicken livers and spinach muffins. Or half-beef, half-liver Moroccan mini meatloaves (recipe coming; get psyched). Or fish.

I can only eat fish when Dave’s not home because he’s allergic and just the idea of me cooking it kinda gives him the willies. (Dave has many wonderful qualities, so I overlook this obvious gustatory flaw.)

Last night, I poked my head in the fridge and by-passed the luscious Greek Beef Stew (revamped in Well Fed as Cinnamon Beef Stew) and nice-and-normal, hard-boiled eggs, for the odds and ends leftover in plastic containers. I like nothing more than taking random ingredients out during a fridge purge to see what I can come up with.

I found:
about 1/2 cup of cooked spaghetti squash
about 1 1/2 cups raw zucchini noodles
the remains of a bunch of parsley

And for whatever reason, I was craving sardines. (Blame PMS, not pregnancy.)

Dinner was so on!

The fish-infused olive oil from the sardines makes this slinky and luscious, without being overly fishy. It was light and super satisfying. Plus, with all those noodles, I could make giant, twirl-up bites on the fork. I LOVE A BIG BITE! This reminds me of linguine with white clam sauce, so you can easily replace the sardines with canned clams, if that’s your thing. This would probably also be tasty with tuna or salmon.

Mediterranean Zucchini Noodles with Sardines

Serves 1 | Prep 5 min (if you already have the noodles in the fridge) | Cook 5 min | Whole30 compliant

  • a pile of raw zucchini noodles and/or cooked spaghetti squash*

  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed

  • 1 generous handful of fresh parsley, minced

  • 1 can sardines packed in olive oil (I like Crown Prince.) — Do not drain the oil!

  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, to taste


Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat until it’s pretty darn hot. Add the veggies noodles and toss with two wooden spoons until the noodles are hot, but not mushy. You want them al dente. This takes, maybe, 2-3 minutes.


When the noodles are hot, turn the heat to medium-low, push the noodles to the side, and pour about 1 tablespoon of the oil from the sardines into the pan. Drop the crushed garlic right into the oil, and when it’s fragrant, toss the noodles with the wooden spoons again to coat them with the oil. Throw in the parsley, salt, pepper, and the sardines, breaking them up into chunks with the wooden spoon. Toss, toss, toss.


Pour onto a plate and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. Twirl on a fork and shove into your well-deserving mouth.

To make zucchini noodles:

You need a julienne peeler like this or this. Julienne the zucchini and place in a colander or wire strainer. Toss generously with salt until the strands are lightly coated. Allow the zucchini to sit for 20-30 minutes to remove excess water. Rinse with running water, drain well, and pat dry with paper towels. At this point, you can store them in the fridge ’til you’re ready to eat them, or move right into cooking them. To cook, just quickly sauté in a dry pan for 3-5 minutes until they’re hot and tender, but not mushy.

To roast spaghetti squash:

Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water around it. Roast in a 375F oven for 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool until you can handle it, then use a fork to shred the squash into noodle-y strands. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it.

Do you eat weird stuff when no one else can see you?

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  • RobinO says:

    My favorite thrown together meal (so far!) was onion, cubed sweet potato, taco flavored ground beef, and spinach scrambled together with a couple eggs. I topped it off with some salsa mayo… it was a mess on a plate and *SO* delicious!

    • Mel says:

      That sounds rad. “Mess on a plate with eggs” is one of my faves! I used to eat at this breakfast joint in Syracuse that had a thing called a “fretta” and it was just EVERYTHING scrambled with eggs. So good!

      • Melissa says:

        I’m late to this party, but Mel, you must be talking about Cosmos on M Street! When were you in Syracuse? I went there from 89-92 before hightailing it back to NJ. Never ate a fretta, tho – greek salad with a toasted (not scooped out!) bagel was my jam.

        • Mel says:

          It wasn’t Cosmos that had the fretta, but I did eat at Cosmos ALL THE TIME. I still daydream about their chili. And oh my! The sorority girls scooping out the centers of their bagels with their long, manicured nails. I’ll never forget it 🙂

  • Ann G. says:

    This is totally something I would throw together (although I have not yet ever tried sardines!) Thanks for posting!!

  • Carla Dake says:

    I bought one of this things after reading about it on the posts. It is amazing for making noodles, spirals or slices out of veggies and fruits! So easy! Works great on sweet potatoes! It is a must have in the Paleo, kitchen!

    • Mel says:

      Neat! That is a LOT of gadgetry! Holy crow!

    • Linda says:

      I bought one of those (has other names on different sites … cheap!) after too many injuries (I’m hopeless in the kitchen) with the slicer thing when julienne-ing the zucchini for the Pad Thai (Well Fed). No injuries now and fast zucchini noodles!

  • dervishspin says:

    I love the Refrigerator Velcro game!
    That’s when you pull out all the leftovers and see what sticks together and remake it into something new. We tend to do that as a couple though.

    I do eat weird when I am alone, and it is stuff that my partner does not eat. But generally it’s something like an entire bag of roasted Brussels Sprouts. Last night’s weird fiesta was an entire head of purple cabbage braised until melty with onions and roasted poblano peppers.
    I dunno why. It called to me.

  • Heather says:

    Haha I had leftover salmon, a spinach muffin and some roasted sweet potato last night. My husband is in class tuesdays and wednesdays and I’m coming up with the weirdest combos for dinner on those nights. Usually a random mix of leftovers. Yum!

  • Heather says:

    @carla That veggie slicer looks fantastic! I’m adding that to my christmas wish list right now…

  • Ruth says:

    Yo. You speak my language ALL the time. ALL THE TIME. I used to eat things like toasted ramen noodles IN macaroni and cheese, or I have been known to do worse, which I am not quite able to admit yet 😉

  • Holly says:

    Oh man, all the time. In fact Garrett was out of town last weekend and I ate awesomely weird food for one THE WHOLE TIME. I guess the food itself wasn’t that weird, but totally stuff he wouldn’t be into: Salmon Cakes with delicious homemade tartar sauce! Baby back ribs with kiwis for dinner! Just random because I felt like it.

    My old habit when he would go out of town was to go to Trader Joe’s and buy all single serving stuff since I didn’t have anyone else to worry about, but thinks have *definitely* changed! The ritual itself, though, still rocks.

  • Diana Moll says:

    YUM! it is so cool how eating a bunch of foods that are all Paleo and good for you together always seems to taste good! BTW am loving you cookbook, I’ve made the Chocolate Chili a few times (with spontaneous variations if you must know) and now my son whose interest in cooking is low wants to learn how to make it!

  • Marc says:

    Weird is totally acceptable 🙂

    Last night was salmon tartare mixed with natto.


  • Christine says:

    I love making zucchini noodles. This is a great idea! Can’t wait to give it a try. Sardines kind of scare me, but what the heck…can’t hurt to try.

  • Cheyenne says:

    I’m intrigued by these half beef/half liver meat loaves you speak of. I really detest the taste of liver but I want to eat it because it’s so damn good for me! If you can come up with a recipe that can hide the taste but include the liver…I would be eternally grateful!


  • Sarah Bayless says:

    We are kindred spirit. I eat chicken livers, and sardines straight from the can. Only when my husband isn’t watching though. I also dig bee pollen sprinkled on things, which no one gets but me and my daughter. Oh and I like the fish skin. I think it’s tasty.

  • Lydia says:

    “half-beef, half-liver Moroccan mini meatloaves”

    BRING IT GURL. That sounds AMAZING.

  • Karen C. says:

    Yes, all the time. Last night, it was an enormous bowl of chopped cherry and other misc. tomatoes from the garden with course sea salt and basil. My DH said, aren’t you going to eat something else? NOPE!

    Also, I’d love some ideas on chicken liver (or other organ meats) that disguise. I make livers wrapped in bacon, but I’m the only one who will eat it.

  • Jen says:

    I love it…we could do a whole blog about weird stuff we ate as kids! Mine was raw oatmeal mixed with chocolate and peanut butter…I snuck this all the time!! When I suffered from binge eating later in life, guess what I always went for???

  • Samantha says:

    I am with you…I love sardines in oil!!! I eat them right out of the can. My favorite thing to eat with them is fruit, so weird.

    They are my secret private food…my husband can’t stand the smell, nor can my coworkers…but sometimes I sneak them at my desk anyway and then pretend it wasn’t me…I’m an a-hole sometimes 😉

  • Candice says:

    carrots n almond butter. enough said.

    I think EVERYONE can relate to this post. The weird quirks that come out when we have the ability to truly relax and give in to our taste buds.

    Great post!

  • Michele says:

    Always do it. Even when not alone – it has been lovingly named “slop”. My kids aren’t even afraid of it anymore because it usually ends up tasting great. Not the best looking but . . . lol.

    My daughter tries to do it now then tells me “it never tastes as good as yours”. I just tell her practice makes perfect. 😉

  • Wendy says:

    Used to call this “gruel” in my grain eating days. Now it’s just, what’s already cooked that I can heat up? Lunch today was cubed steak with avocado and baked acorn squash. Funny, it never looks as great as the original, or even close to the wonderfully photographed, esthetically pleasing blogs. I just close my eyes.

  • Kaydee says:

    I’ll just make piles of meat and sliced cucumber and mustard on a plate and mix and match and dip in mustard. I love mustard 🙂

  • kaye says:

    So … I sort of made this for dinner because it looked delicious and was EXACTLY what I had to use in my fridge, only I added some dried oregano and used fish sauce instead of salt. SO GOOD. Fish sauce makes everything epic.

  • I like making “mini-fish-tacos” with sardines, large spinach leaves, and chopped tomato/onion/cilantro/black olive. Messy, fishy, and makes me glad there’s no one to see me eat it (except the cat, who is happy to clean the floor if sardines are involved).

    Haven’t tried carrots with almond butter, but am eating celery with warmed 1/2 almond butter, 1/2 coconut butter mixed right now. Dessert 🙂

  • sixtyfive says:

    Genius, Melissa! The takeaway for me was the how-to for pre-making the zucchini noodles, which I much prefer to spaghetti squash (more like fettucine). My “version” of this dinner: Saute a bit of minced shallot in olive oil. Stir in a handful of zucchini noodles. Then add in a leftover cooked chicken thigh (sliced), a few cherry tomatoes (sliced in two), a glug of heavy cream, salt and pepper, and a few snips of fresh basil from the garden. Heaven! And the variations are endless.

  • Amy says:

    Our house has a recent invention dubbed Taco Egg Salad. Leftover browned ground beef and hard boiled eggs, mashed up together with mayo and flavored with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, etc. Add the smashed up remnants of a bag of tortilla chips if you eat such things. I made a big batch to take on a beach camping trip, it’s all I needed to eat and no one else wanted it because it looks like dog food. More for me!

  • Yes when I am home alone and just wanting something tasty I will eat whatever the heck I feel like (of course healthy) whether it be a veggie shake and some chicken or almond milk with chia seeds and bananas whatever I want I have it 🙂 Love and Shine CourtStar

  • Nicole says:

    I like homemade cole slaw with roasted turkey- it is very good together. paleo and yummy.-
    fish tacos – fish with taco seasoning, tomato, lettuce sour cream and salsa in lettuce leaves-yummy!
    I also heard that the best way to make hard boiled eggs is to actually place the eggs in a muffin tin(in their shells, and put them in the oven at 350 degrees for like 20 minutes. i guess they taste better and peel easier. read this on Pinterest. haven’t tried it yet but may make up a batch of egg salad tomorrow with homemade mayo just to try it! thanks for all the great suggestions – weird combos rock!

  • andrea says:

    So, weird. I just finished eating a plate of spagetti squash sauteed in onions and bacon fat, topped with crispy bacon and two runny eggs. I’ve never had that combo before, but it was delicious and filled the belly right up!

  • I love random meals that are thrown together and end up amazing. Right on!

  • Kristin says:

    I love this post! I just bought a spaghetti squash and had no idea how to make it. I will try this recipe…sans sardines and with some coconut oil I think.

    Also LOVE your cook book. It is such a fun read and the recipes are fantastic. I, too, was raised in an Italian family, where food is the center of our universe! After reading it I feel like you are my sister from another Mister. My favorite recipe so far is the sausage and eggplant strata…so heavenly!

  • OrGreenic says:

    This certainly does sound a little strange, but in the best possible way. Thanks for sharing such a unique recipe.

  • Melisa says:

    I’m eating this right now ith the spaghetti squash and it’s good! I always have sardines in the cabinet. I usually mix them with mayo and dill relish and wrap in butter lettuce leaves. Stinky little packets that taste so good. 🙂 I like the Reese boneless ones best. I have some Crown Prince Kippers in the cabinet that would work too, I bet. Thanks!

  • Caroline says:

    Love this and great idea about making the zucchini noodles beforehand. Any suggestions for how long they will last in the fridge?

    • Mel says:

      If you “sweat” the zucchini noodles and pat them dry, you can store them in an air-tight container for 4-5 days. I make big batches and save them in the fridge to I can have noodles on demand.

  • Melanie says:

    I tried this recipe with smoked oysters instead of sardines. Was awesome!!! And quick and easy!

  • Ashley says:

    I made this today with baby spinach. It was my first time trying sardines. I’ll definitely be making it again, but with even more veggies!

  • Janice says:

    LOVE IT!! Home along tonight without kids and hubby and stumbled across this. I also love Pan-Fried Sardines in Well Fed 2. Oh if they only knew what they were missing, who wouldn’t like Sardines??

  • Melinda says:

    Thank you! I am on the AIP diet and still in the process of finding food to eat!! I loved this dish!

  • Caroline says:

    This is a way healthier version of a typical Portugese dish, usually made in a style like hash browns with tuna and misc other vegetables from the sea and elsewhere. Very similar texture and concept, by using the oily fish. Cool!