One-Pot Wonders

The (Not Barefoot) Contessa's Fish Pasta

August  1, 2009
6 Ratings
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

The mother of one of our boys' friends in Rome turned out to be a contessa, a title that only matters if other people care (and they seem to). This is not a very fussy contessa and doesn't mind sleeping on our couch. She can also cook for an army. This is one of her dishes. Can be made with any flakey white fish. Snapper good but I find it best with fresh striped bass. Be very careful stirring the sauce: the fish should remain intact. The tomatoes should be fresh and cooked al crudo, till the juices are released but they are still a little raw. - Fisheri —fisheri

Test Kitchen Notes

Fisheri's recipe title -- The (Not Barefoot) Contessa's Fish Pasta -- caught our eye. Turns out the recipe comes from an actual contessa, a friend of Fisheri's. The sauce reminded us of so much of the cooking we've seen in Italy, with vegetables and fish simmered for much longer than you'd expect. Here, the fish is sauteed in oil, and then it stays in the pan as wine is reduced and fresh tomatoes are added and simmered. We feared the fish would end up in shreds. Instead we learned something: by adding the fish early on, its flavor infuses the whole sauce, so the tomatoes and fish are no longer separate entities, but fully integrated into the sauce. And the capers and olives reinforce the flavor of the fish with brine. It ends up being a more vibrant version of puttanesca. - A & M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 12 or so oil cured olives, depitted and chopped
  • 1 pound white fish, like striped bass or snapper
  • 1 tablespoon salted capers
  • half a glass of white wine
  • 4 big and fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 packet linguine or spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped roughly
  • salt and pepper
  1. chop tomatoes roughly
  2. dice garlic
  3. deskin fish and cut into bite sized chunks
  4. saute three tablespoons of oil with garlic for two minutes or so over medium heat
  5. add fish, stirring carefully until browned. try not to break it up.
  6. once browned, add salt and pepper, then half glass of white wine and turn up heat. stir carefully till wine is nearly evaporated.
  7. meantime, heat pot of hot water for pasta, generously salted.
  8. when wine is nearly evaporated, reduce heat, add tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes or so
  9. add capers (i prefer just to shake the salt off them rather than wash them), parsley and olives. again stir carefully: you don't want to turn this into fish puree. when the tomato juice is released and the sauce is just thickening, turn off heat. you want the tomatoes a little raw.
  10. cook pasta al dente.
  11. carefully add the sauce to the pasta over a little heat. stir gently for a minute or two and serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • charles
  • Laura Abbasi
    Laura Abbasi
  • jifferb
  • bcsanjose
  • bgavin

23 Reviews

Evelyn December 16, 2019
My daughter came over for lunch and a served this with a green salad. We both loved it.
charles March 19, 2019
thoughts on maybe broiling the tomatoes first so that you get a more fire-roasted flavor?
Dizzy5 April 8, 2018
"1 packet of linguine or spaghetti" weighs how much, please?
Dizzy5 April 8, 2018
We used 1 pound of tilapia, browned and reserved from the sauce-building (made with some homemade fish stock) to re-introduce at the end, carefully, then combined with 8-oz of spaghetti. Tasted fine; fishy-er is better.
Amanda H. April 8, 2018
I would have said 1 lb but if you used 1/2 lb and liked it, seems like that's fine, too!
beejay45 March 17, 2018
Wow! This is an Italian version of Mexican Snapper Vera Cruz. Seriously. We love it and do occasionally serve it with pasta. In that, you cook the sauce, then kind of nestle the fish into it and simmer on medium low until the fish is cooked. This style of dish keeps the fillets whole, but flaking and putting over pasta is going to be my next version. Thanks for the look at another country's love of capers, olives, tomatoes and fish. ;)
Mary September 16, 2015
Really tasty - I browned frozen tilapia first, removed it from the pan, then added it back in at the end to finish cooking. I used green, yellow & orange heirloom varieties, which I like to use with fish. I also used mild green Castelvetrano olives that I had on hand, which I think would be a good substitute for people who aren't wild about olives, but I going forward I will use Kalamata or something else with more of a briny kick as the recipe indicates. Per the chef's comment, I'll probably just add the frozen fish at the end next time (living in the midwest, I am viewing this recipe as an interesting way to prepare frozen fish).
Bent E. August 30, 2015
loved it... i am enjoying my lunch as i type this comment
i added small onion , chili flakes , fresh thyme . and i didn't use wine ... Perfect :)
fisheri October 14, 2014
from the chef: i keep getting emails that people are looking at this, which is flattering 5 years on. i still make it regularly but with very fresh fish ive started being a little more traditional, adding the fish at the very end. changes things in texture and taste. does bring out really good fish though. ian
Laura A. May 20, 2013
Made this pasta for dinner. Thought it was a really good idea, but my husband does not like olives and we felt that it needed a little extra oomf. I tried adding more garlic, more capers, but am thinking that I might add some onions next time or maybe red pepper flakes.
jifferb February 11, 2013
Just wanted to chime in - i love this pasta. its easy, its sooooo flavorful, i didnt have salted capers on hand so just used the ones in brine and poured that in as well. I love this recipe. Esp in summer. Tastes like the sea! So delish! MMMMMM!
bcsanjose December 16, 2012
This is a essentially puttanesca sauce with fish. Keeping the fish pieces intact is tricky (I used turbot the first time and wound up with a puree). Delicious, though, and requires little effort.
bgavin October 3, 2012
Made this last weekend with swordfish. Wondering about adding whole mushroom caps to this?
bgavin October 3, 2012
Made this last weekend with swordfish. Wondering about adding whole mushroom caps to this?
Mlouise August 8, 2012
Loved it...was out of capers so I substituted green mater martini pickles....sort of itty bitty green tomatoes (beta good in the pasta as in my martini.
Jade W. June 2, 2012
Being in Barbados, I used local Swordfish. It turned out wonderfully. The smells coming from the kitchen received numerous compliments, and my husband and two children finished with clean plates and very happy bellies. I agree with Dr Babs it wasn't quite saucy enough, but that is easily fixed. Thanks for the recipe!
Cheazza April 23, 2012
Made this last night. The sauce was surprisingly mellow, while keeping a vibrant flavor. It was a total comfort food meal, and I was surprised how easily it came together.

I may add more olived next time, for a bit of a sharper taste. I'll be making this again and again.
Sonali A. January 11, 2012
I love the combination of seafood, white wine and capers- delish!
This is more than the sum of its parts - so delicious, and now one of our favorite pasta dishes. Thank you for sharing the recipe!
drbabs April 30, 2010
Hi Fisheri. I have been dying to make this since I first saw it--but my husband hates olives and capers--he's out of town tonight so I made it for friends. It was delicious. We thought it could use a little more garlic, and that it wasn't quite saucy enough--the next time I make it I would add a ladleful of pasta water to the sauce before serving.
fisheri July 27, 2010
belatedly saw this: yes, i often add pasta water to keep it ample, wet and seasoned. forgot to put in that tip. doesnt always need it. but it's a perfect fix when it does. re garlic, this is always to taste. it works great with a lot more than what i wrote. glad it turned out reasonably ok. ian
Merrill S. August 21, 2009
Love the way the fish infuses the sauce, making the whole dish taste of the sea -- in a good way!
Amanda H. August 1, 2009
You write great recipe titles!