My daughter Nicola has been visiting for 3 days with my youngest grandson – 6 months yesterday – and it’s been great to spend time with them. We both love fish and with an excellent fishmongers just down the road in central Twickenham, fish has twice been on the menu. On Monday evening I made Sea Bream Roasted with New Potatoes, Tomatoes & Fresh Herbs and last night I made a seafood sauce to go with pasta.
Italians like to match the shape of pasta with the sauce and often sauces similar to mine last night are served with linguine and I’ve had seafood with paccheri – large tube-shaped pasta. However, Romina in Corto Italian Deli suggested I bought some penne, saying tagliatelle could work but perhaps best not to use egg pasta, which I thought interesting. So penne it was – and it worked well.
After leaving Corto we headed down the road to Sandy’s, the fishmonger. I love having a fishmonger – a real fishmonger, not just a supermarket counter – nearby. There I chose a selection of fish for my sauce – large raw tiger prawns (I went for peeled for the sauce), some small squid and some cods’ cheeks. I wanted a harmonious variety.
Back at home I decided to make the tomato sauce base a little ahead of supper time, so we could sit with an aperitif and relax before eating, and would cook the fish at the last minute. I wanted to celebrate their quality – not leave them spoiling slightly in a sauce for too long and lose some of the integrity of their individual flavours and textures. I would then pan fry each fish separately to seal and brown them, then add them to the hot sauce for just a minute or two to finish cooking before folding the cooked pasta into it.
Seafood Pasta Sauce – Serves 2
- 1 shallot, finely sliced
- ½ stick of celery, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for frying the fish
- pinch of dried chilli flakes
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- 100ml white wine
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- mixed seafood for 2 (e.g. 8 tiger prawns, 2 small squid, 4 cods’ cheeks)
- 150g penne (or other pasta)
Gently fry the shallot and celery with the olive oil in a large frying pan until starting to soften. Sprinkle over the chilli flakes (a pinch will give a slight hit of heat; a bit more if you want the sauce chilli hot). Now add the garlic and chopped tomatoes and give a good stir to mix. Add the tomato purée with the wine (I had some slightly flat prosecco which had been in the fridge for a couple of days and used that). Season with salt and pepper and allow to bubble gently for about 10 minutes.
Parsley has continued to grow in a pot outside my back door through the winter as it’s been so mild. I chopped a small bunch and added it to the sauce, retaining just a little for garnish at the end. The sauce can be taken from the heat at this stage and left for a little while until you’re ready to eat. If you make it much earlier in the day, you’ll have to keep it in the fridge once cooled.
Now cook the fish. My prawns were ready to go; the squid had been cleaned and I sliced it into small rings; the cods’ cheeks I cut into square-quarters.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the prawns. Turn over once coloured and cook the second side. Don’t cook right through as they’ll finish cooking in the hot sauce. Lay on top of the warm sauce (but don’t have the heat on). I kept a couple of prawns in the pan to cook through so I could put to the side for a garnish at the end. Now cook the cods’ cheeks and then the squid rings. Cook quickly and leave slightly underdone so they remain tender. Add to the sauce as ready.
Once all the fish is cooked, stir carefully into the sauce and heat through over a low-medium heat for just a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile have your pasta cooking (follow timing instructions on the packet). Once the pasta is ready, tip into the fish sauce and gently fold it all together. Spoon onto two serving plates or shallow bowls. Sprinkle over a little more parsley, lay a saved prawn on top of each portion and drizzle over a little more extra virgin olive oil. Serve with a green salad on the side.
It was really good; absolutely gorgeous. Nicola even said it was one of the best fish dishes she’d had in a long time! The fish was top quality and we were able to enjoy each type’s individual qualities; the sauce had a freshness because I’d used fresh tomatoes rather than tinned; the chilli was just enough to give a slight hit of heat. It was a lovely meal to enjoy together but it can also easily be made just for one, or doubled or tripled up for a few more people.