This is another one of my mother’s recipes. It is very simple and very tasty. I love the delicate fish taste that gets in the sauce… yum! To make it, you need a very bony fish that is also very cartilaginous… any fish suitable to make soup is fine. I usually make it with red gurnards, which I might add, is not so easily available here in Sydney. Because you want to use it for a sauce, it is important that the fish is small (that is why I suggest you use 2 small fishes rather than 1 big fish, with the innards removed) and that you cook it with its bones and head as that is what makes the sauce tasty. You can debone it once cooked and eat it with your pasta or after it, if you like.
Ingredients (for 4 persons):
2 Small Red Gurnards, cleaned (I used one for 2 people)
1 small onion, thinly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 to 8 tbsp diced tinned tomatoes
½ glass white wine
Put the chopped onion and garlic in a pot with the extra virgin olive oil and sauté for a few minutes on a very low flame.
When they are soft and transparent add the diced tomatoes and let that cook for 3 minutes.
Now rinse the cleaned fish and add it to the sauce on the fire.
Pour the white wine on the top and increase the flame to burn off the alcohol.
Add salt, a couple of tbsp of water and let it cook on a very low flame until the fish almost comes apart. You will need to turn the fish around and very likely add a little more water while cooking. The sauce has to be a bit “runny”.
When ready, remove the fish from the sauce and keep it aside. Do not add the cooked and cleaned red gurnard in the sauce or will absorb it all and you will not have enough for your pasta. Add it only at the end as a “topping” or eat it separately.
In the meantime, cook the spaghetti following the steps on How to cook pasta “al dente” in the Techniques page of this site. Drain it and serve with the fish sauce. Top it with freshly ground pepper, chopped parsley and a couple of pieces of cleaned red gurnard (optional).
Just a little background on where and how we got the red gurnard from. As I was saying, finding smallish red gurnards is not that easy around here, so when I saw one at Leichhardt on the weekend, I knew I had to buy it. We were there to take our daughters to the story time in Italian that is held at the Co.As.It. Multimedia Resource Centre. While there, we always stop by Norton Grocer’s, AC Butcher’s and some other shops in the area that sell Italian goodies. On the ground level of that shopping centre, there is a very small fish shop and that is where I spotted this little red gurnard. I told the lady at the counter that I wanted the “little one” and she looked a bit annoyed… then she asked “anything else?”, I said “no thank you” and she looked even more annoyed. She weighed the fish and said “1 dollar 60”. She wrapped it and gave it to my husband. While he was paying I went ahead with my 2 girls as we were running late. Then I remembered I should have asked them to clean it and I signalled my husband to ask them to clean it (he was still there). When he came back he was furious. Guess why? They told him “it cost only 1 dollar 60 and you even want it cleaned?”. And nobody in the shop wanted to clean it… they made him wait for 5 minutes before someone decided to clean it! That made me soooo angry… I went back to the shop and told them they had lost a client… and I made sure all the other people buying fish there heard me clearly. Now, there is no rule that says you cannot buy a small fish (they set the price based on its weight…), there’s no rule that says I must buy “a lot” or spend “a lot”, and there is definitely no minimum amount to spend in order to get a fish cleaned. I have bought the same fish at other places and never ever had a problem having it cleaned. It also took them all of 30 seconds to actually clean it. If they do not want to dirty their hands cleaning fish, I suggest they stop selling fish and open up a boutique to sell clothes! And this fantastic (yeah right) fish shop is called Norton Seafoods and it is located in Norton Plaza on Norton Street… Beware all you Sydneysiders! I suggest you shop somewhere else for your fish! They surely won’t get our business ever again.
On a completely different note I’d like to announce that my Macarons with White Chocolate and Mint Ganache recipe won this month’s recipe challenge over at FoodFrenzy! Thank You all soooo much for your support! It is the first time that I win a “competition” and I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am!!! 🙂 THANK YOU ALL! <3
What a gorgeous pasta dish, Manu! I know it’s delicious, too…but sorry about the poor customer service. I would not go back either. And BIG congratulations on the Food Frenzy win…and to win making such a tricky dessert makes it even MORE impressive 🙂
I need to step up and be brave – never made my own fish stock before. At least now I know what to look in the right fish for that (and the right fishmonger, for all that matters).
Nuts about food says
YOU GO GIRL! How rude of them. The pasta however looked lovely, I could almost taste that sauce.
Congratulations on winning the competition.
Now I know what to do with those small bony fish you find in Asian market and that aren’t good for regular fish recipes! Thank you!
Parsley Sage says
Fantastic dish! Before I moved here, whole fish were always shiver inducing but after you start cooking with them…the flavor is so much better! I haven’t looked back 🙂
[email protected] says
What a yummy looking pasta! I have never tried cooking pasta with a fish before (or a whole fish!). That sucks that you got poor customer service, its sad thats going down the drain at so many places now.
Hester Casey - Alchemy says
I am thrilled you won, Manu. The macarons looked divine and worthy of a food frenzy championship.
Another lovely recipe (and oh the cheeky things at that shop! – so what if it was a small fish that day. Because it had what you wanted, you probably would have gone back and bought other things).
Amy @ Gastronome Tart says
I’m usually not a fan of seafood in my pasta, however this looks delicious! I will be giving this a try!
Sandra's Easy Cooking says
Oh Manu what a unique sauce and in general whole dish!!! I really really like it!!!
Beautiful moughwatering photography and lovely presentation!!!!
This is mouth watering Manu. The way you prepare the fish is amazing and it totally makes me miss holidays in Italy. I have to make a fishy dish this weekend otherwise I would dream your dish every night.:-)
Hi Manu! Congrats on your winning at Food Frenzy! Moreover it’s just your 2nd try! Well done! 😀
Love this special fish sauce spaghetti! I’ll definitely try this coz I’m a fish fanatic loving all kinda fish cooked in any methods! 😀
[email protected] says
Fantastic sea first course! I love fish sauce (although I prefer fish “alone”), and this one looks very tasty!
What happened to you at the fish shop is simply unbelievable O___O
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says
What an intriguing recipe Manu! But that is terrible beahviour on that fish shop’s part. As if anyone would want to go back. Who knows whether you might buy a whole salmon one day or not? On a lighter note, congraulations on your macarons 🙂
The Harried Cook says
That pasta looks great, Manu! I love fish in pasta. Thanks for sharing this recipe…. How rude were those people! I’m so glad you went back and told them off… And congrats on the win! 🙂 You deserve it! 🙂
I have actually never thought of making a fish pasta sauce, but this has convinced me! I love that you cook the fish in the sauce then remove it and add it back in at the end. Sounds absolutely delicious.
Gurnards are beautiful fish to eat and we usually steam them. For a while I thought you meant the Vietnamese / Thai fish sauce with your pasta! 🙂
Beth Michelle says
Manu! This looks so wonderful. It would be a huge hit in our home. I wonder if I can find that fish here…I will have to look in the shuk. Congrats on your win 🙂
Nami @ Just One Cookbook says
I’m sorry you got a terrible customer service. They can’t do such a simple thing for the valuable customers, then forget it. But I know it is really annoying experience though. When I saw this title on subscription email from my phone, I was so eager to see your post on the computer (sorry I’ve been sick and haven’t been online much). I love fish in pasta, and your step-by-step pictures gradually killed me. I want to eat this so badly! This is why I check authentic Italian recipe (here). I would rather eat this than any other pasta!
manu, ur snaps r lot’s of help full for making ur dishes. spaghetti is just yummmmm……..I love the presentation..it is so elegant .
Your mom must be an AMAZING cook! And congrats on winning the recipe challenge!