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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.
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.
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.
- 2 pounds swordfish steaks, skin removed
- olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon red chili flakes
- 8 anchovy fillets, diced small
- 1 pound dried paccheri pasta (or your favorite tube-shaped pasta)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 2 heaping handfuls of fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped