So you could call this fish ragu pasta recipe a happy accident or a good recovery of a blunder. You see, I set the theme for this month’s Fish Friday Foodies ages ago and kept going back and forth on what I wanted to make. There’s a dish I made years ago that I thought about making (and still might) that I considered. Then I remembered the delicious pasta con sarde a mare I made a few months back and thought I’d look in to other Sicilian seafood pasta dishes. There were a few to choose from, many more suited to spring or summer. However I found one with a ragu sauce that I thought sounded good.
As I headed to buy things on the day I planned to make my dish, I kind of had it in mind I’d go for the dish I’d made before. Then I made a last minute decision at the fish market to make the Sicilian fish ragu pasta. Never a good idea. I mis-remembered the key ingredient and got red snapper instead of red mullet. In fairness, I don’t think they had red mullet but there is a bit of a difference in taste.
I duly made this fish ragu pasta with my snapper and really enjoyed it. I was a little short on tomatoes, so adjusted the quantities to what you see below, but otherwise it was a tasty dish – fairly light, simple flavors but contentedly filling. It was only after I was finished that I realized my mistake. No wonder I’d thought my dish was quite light; red snapper is a much more delicate flavor that red mullet. But, it was still tasty, and that got me thinking. This fish ragu is more of a framework recipe that you can use with whatever fish you feel like as I think it can work with most fish, or at least most white fish, hence I’ve called it fish ragu pasta rather than a specific fish.
How it’s made
The process is the same, whatever the fish, as you make stock with the bones, a bit of wine and some aromatics.You can also use ready-made fish stock although making your own is relatively easy. You start making the sauce by cooking onions and anchovies as the stock is cooking then add some stock along with the tomatoes. Add the fish filets, cook them and gently break them up while the pasta cooks then mix the pasta through. Finish with a little parsley, and that’s it. It’s kind of like a tomato sauce pasta with fish, I know, but the additional flavors are so good (plus tomato and fish is never good either).
This fish ragu pasta is a relatively simple dish that can take on different characters with different fish – go light with snapper or bass or give it more depth of flavor with red mullet (as traditionally used) or eg bluefish. Whatever you use, it makes a delicious meal and is both a nice variation on pasta for dinner and a great way to enjoy more fish. Give it a try and find your favorite fish to add.
A simple fish and tomato-based sauce for a light, tasty pasta dish.
- 1.25 lb whole white fish eg snapper (for milder flavor) or red mullet (for deeper flavor) giving approx 9oz/260g as fillets
- 1/8 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf small
- 2 peppercorns
- 2/3 cup white wine 150ml
- 2 cups water 480ml, or a little less
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 onion
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 1 clove garlic small
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes 240ml, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fish stock 120ml, use bones to make stock as in instructions
- 1 tbsp parsley finely chopped , a small handful
- 7 oz pasta 200g, I used bucatini but use whatever you prefer
Ask your fishmonger to fillet the fish for you but to give you the head and bones. Put the head and bones into a pan along with the fennel seeds, bay leaf, peppercorns, white wine and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for approx 30min, starting the rest of the steps after approx 15min.
After the stock has been simmering approx 15-20min, warm the oil in a medium skillet/frying pan. Finely chop the onion and slice the anchovies then add them to the pan. Cook for approx 5-10min until the onion is softening and the anchovies have melted away. Add the garlic and cook for another couple minutes before adding the tomatoes and 1/2 cup stock from the pan.
Cook for another 5min then add the fish fillets and simmer until cooked through, turning after a few minutes.
At the same time, put the remaining stock in a pan with the pasta and top up to cover well with hot water. Bring to a boil and cook until done, as per packet instructions.
Once cooked, add the parsley to the sauce, then mix the pasta into the sauce and serve.
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