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
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 35 minutes
- Serves 4
- The Topping
extra-virgin olive oil
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
large or 2 small shallots, halved through the root end and thinly sliced
heaping tablespoon capers, drained (if in brine) or rinsed (if salt-packed) and roughly chopped
roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
A generous pinch of red pepper flakes
- The Pasta & Broth
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
(about 2 cups) sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dry white wine (optional; see Author Notes)
1 to 2 teaspoons
colatura di alici or fish sauce (optional; see Author Notes)
mezzi paccheri or other tubular pasta
skinless sea bass fillets or other mild, flaky fish like cod or halibut, cut into 2-inch pieces
Lemon wedges, for serving
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.