Olive Oil

Make This Pasta, Pretend You're on Vacation

February 10, 2016

When the days are short and the air is frigid, it's uplifting to cook something that evokes a different (warmer) time and place—which, for me, means this Paccheri with Swordfish Ragu. The bright, green smell of oregano will fill your kitchen, and for a moment you'll be transported: Memories of the ocean and the summer sun will warm you.

Photo by James Ransom

As the foundation of the swordfish ragu, olive oil plays a prominent role in this dish; if you have a favorite high-quality olive oil, now is the time to use it. The addition of tomatoes and fresh lemon juice alongside the aromatic oregano and the fruity olive oil gives the pasta a brightness and vibrancy. This is your chance to take a break from winter stews and braises, open a bottle of rosé, and pretend that you’re on vacation.

The key to success with this dish is to cook the swordfish slowly and gently. Cooking the swordfish too fast will result in fish that tastes dry and lacks flavor—but the slower you cook the fish in that beautiful bath of oil, garlic, and chili flakes, the more flavorful and tender your fish will be.

You should feel free to alter the recipe: If fresh oregano is unavailable, use dried and add it along with the red chili flakes at the beginning of the recipe. If you can’t find paccheri, use your favorite tube-shaped pasta. And if it’s summer, use fresh tomatoes instead of canned.

But do seek out swordfish: Its meaty texture and deep ocean flavor stand up to the garlic, chili, and lemon in the dish—and, as a bonus, swordfish is readily available at my farmers market even in the winter, so I'm inclined to cook with it while I wait for the bounty of spring and summer vegetables to return.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“We are in the midst of Spring/Summer like weather. It has been almost 80 for the last week and no rain in the 10 day forecast...certainly no frigid weather! ”
— dymnyno

Even though I'm eagerly awaiting the first signs of spring at the farmers market (asparagus! ramps!), there's plenty to get excited about right now. This recipe reminds me that, even in the belly of winter, the pleasures of a remote Italian fishing village may actually be closer than we thought.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Betsey
  • Bar49
  • Saralie
  • Josh Cohen
    Josh Cohen
  • dymnyno
Josh Cohen

Written by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.


Betsey February 11, 2016
Lydia B made this exact same dish on her show last week. Huh.
Josh C. February 11, 2016
Hi Betsey,

Please note that I originally published this swordfish ragu recipe on December 4th, 2015.


This recipe was first published as part of a collaboration between Mario Batali and Food52, celebrating the feast of the 7 fishes. I was honored to get to contribute this recipe to the digital cookbook that we created together.
Bar49 February 10, 2016
The Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn, Ny, has been selling fresh swordfish lately, and they are the most ethical institution I know, when it comes to sourcing food.
Saralie February 10, 2016
According to the FDA pregnant women, nursing mothers, women of childbearing age and young children should avoid all swordfish as it has one of the highest mercury contents of any fish.
Josh C. February 10, 2016
Some swordfish can be sustainable, depending on where it was caught and what fishing technique was used. Avoid swordfish caught with longlines by international fishing fleets.
dymnyno February 10, 2016
ha, ha! Sometimes I am amazed at what a disconnect Food52 has with the west coast. We are in the midst of Spring/Summer like weather. It has been almost 80 for the last week and no rain in the 10 day forecast...certainly no frigid weather!
Betsey February 11, 2016
Don't worry. Every commercial on TV reminds us how warm it is in California.