Brothy Tomato Pasta With White Fish, Shallots & Capers

July 14, 2021
10 Ratings
Photo by Pasta Social Club
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

When I close my eyes after taking a bite, this light, brothy weeknight pasta immediately transports me to the seaside vacations and sand castles of my childhood. It starts with my favorite summer staple—tomatoes, of course—and finishes with a sizzled caper topping that I could easily eat by the spoonful, along with one of my most treasured condiments: colatura di alici. Colatura is an aged Italian fish sauce made with anchovies and salt that imparts a deliciously savory, sea-like flavor without being overtly fishy. It adds great depth to this dish—along with other seafood, meats, vegetables, pastas, and vinaigrettes—but feel free to omit it or use a dash of Southeast Asian fish sauce instead (the flavor is different, but equally wonderful). I’ve paired it all with mezzi paccheri to soak up the broth and catch the tender flakes of fish, though whichever pasta you have in your pantry will do the trick.

A note on the wine: If you prefer to omit the alcohol, you can deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons water to add a similar acidity to the broth. —Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club

What You'll Need
  • The Topping
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, halved through the root end and thinly sliced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon capers, drained (if in brine) or rinsed (if salt-packed) and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • A generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • The Pasta & Broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (optional; see Author Notes)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons colatura di alici or fish sauce (optional; see Author Notes)
  • 12 ounces mezzi paccheri or other tubular pasta
  • 1 pound skinless sea bass fillets or other mild, flaky fish like cod or halibut, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  1. Make the topping: Heat ¼ cup of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the capers and cook for 1 minute more. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley and the red pepper flakes. Set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or sauté pan with a lid over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and jammy, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more. Follow with the wine (if using), scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Drizzle in the colatura or fish sauce (if using) and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. While the broth simmers, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it generously. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, until just shy of al dente.
  5. While the pasta cooks, season the fish with salt and pepper. Add the fish to the broth, cover, and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Gently flip the fish, cover once more, and cook an additional 2 minutes, or until just cooked through (it should start to flake when pulled at with a fork).
  6. Transfer the pasta to the broth and stir gently to coat, breaking up the fish into large flakes. Cook for another minute or two so the pasta can absorb the flavors of the broth.
  7. Divide the pasta, fish, and broth among bowls. Finish with the caper topping, remaining chopped parsley, and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with lemon wedges for squeezing over the top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Elizabeth Finch
    Elizabeth Finch
  • Doug R.
    Doug R.
  • Kayla BN
    Kayla BN
  • Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club
    Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club
Meryl Feinstein is a chef and pastaia who left the corporate world for the food industry in 2018. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education, Meryl got her start at the renowned New York establishments Lilia and Misi, where she was part of the pasta production team. During that time, Meryl founded Pasta Social Club, a platform that brings people together over a shared love of food, learning, and making connections both on- and offline. She now lives in Austin, where she hosts virtual pasta-making workshops and develops recipes. Her dishes draw on her travels in Italy, ongoing research into the rich history of traditional pasta-making, and her Jewish heritage.

10 Reviews

Elizabeth F. October 22, 2023
Heavenly! And healthy too!
Blake529 March 11, 2023
this was really a surprisingly great recipe! didn't have capers so I just seasoned the garlic shallot toppings with salt. Light but so satisfying. thank you
Doug R. June 16, 2022
Can't wait to try this. It's almost identical to what I do with clams, and it sounds great!
Jessamin September 29, 2021
Absolutely incredible. I didn’t change a thing. My husband lived in Milan for a year and his remark was “you’re getting really good at pasta”. I’ll be revisiting this recipe for the rest of my life.
Kayla B. July 14, 2021
This was amazing - the briney capers and fish had me dreaming of beach holidays. Definitely a bit more effort than your standard pasta sauce, but worth it.
Meryl F. July 19, 2021
That's so great to hear! It almost makes me believe I'm at the beach haha.
michelle July 5, 2021
This was sooooo good!! I only used about 6 oz of dried pasta and kept the other proportions the same. The shallot/caper relish was divine. I can think if a lot of uses for that. Light, delicious , quick and easy.
💯 would make it again.
Meryl F. July 19, 2021
I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed it, Michelle!
I soooo ripped off your topping for just about any southern Italian pasta dish I make, only I add grated lemon zest and swap the red pepper flakes with thinly sliced Calabrian peppers. This is fantastic! Thanks for the inspiration, folks!
Meryl F. July 19, 2021
Those sound like excellent adjustments! Calabrian peppers make everything better. :)