Risotto alla Marinara (Risotto with Fish)

Marinara sauce is the American-Italian term for tomato sauce, but in Italy it usually refers to a sauce prepared in the style of  the seaman’s wife and is a tomato-based sauce with seafood. I really liked the risotto alla marinara I had at Ristorante Anna in the Adriatic beach town Gabicce Mare, and decided to recreate something similar at home.

This is the risotto at Ristorante Anna, which was served without parsley and with the fish served on top, cooked until it was very flaky. I kept the fish in moist morsels instead. Otherwise I kept it very simple, just like the risotto at Ristorante Anna. Rice, fish, fish stock, and tomatoes are the main ingredients apart from the risotto standard ingredients onion, white wine, and butter. The fish stock at Anna included shrimp shells for more depth of flavor, and I copied that as well. Here’s what I did.


For 2 servings

250 grams (.55 lbs) filleted firm-fleshed white fish such as sea bass, grouper or gurnard, cut into pieces

130 grams (2/3 cup) risotto rice such as carnaroli

800 grams (1.8 lbs) ripe plum tomatoes

80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine

3 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley


For the stock

1 carrot, 1 onion, and 1 celery stick

about 500 grams (1.1 lbs) fish heads and bones

about 100 grams (3.5 oz) shrimp heads and shells


Prepare the fish stock and make sure you end up with about 600 ml (2 1/2 cups). Keep the stock hot.

Wash and dry the tomatoes and put them in the food processor.

Process until pureed.

Use a foodmill to sieve out the seeds and large pieces of skin.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the tomato pulp.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until it is no longer watery.

Meanwhile, in a thick-bottomed pan melt 2 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat and add the onion. Sauté the onion until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add the rice and stir until the rice is very hot and covered with butter.

Add the white wine and cook over medium heat until the wine has almost completely been incorporated into the rice.

Add a ladle of stock and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until it has been absorbed. Keep adding stock ladle by lade and keep stirring until you have run out of stock. The rice should still be somewhat undercooked. Turn off the heat.

Now add the fish to the tomato sauce, which should be ready by now. (If it was ready too early, turn off the heat and then bring it to a boil as soon as you’ve finished adding all of the stock to the rice.)

Cook for a minute or until the fish is just cooked through.

Remove the fish with a slotted spoon.

Add the tomato sauce, now enriched with fish juices, to the rice.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the rice has absorbed most of the tomato sauce. Taste for doneness. If the rice is not done yet, add a bit of hot water and keep stirring until it is cooked to your liking.

Add the remaining butter, the parsley, and the fish and stir gently (trying to avoid breaking up the fish) to incorporate. Allow to rest for a couple of minutes.

Serve on warm plates.

Wine pairing

This is great with a full-bodied Italian coastal white, such as a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi or a Greco di Tufo.


This is my take on seafood paella. Not completely traditional, but nicely presented and very tasty.


13 thoughts on “Risotto alla Marinara (Risotto with Fish)

  1. Nice post, Stefan. Sounds very tasty but gurnard is one ugly fish. 😮 We don’t see gurnard in these parts but from what I have read it’s a really tasty, sustainable, albeit ugly fish. What is the texture like?


    1. It is fattier (4-6% fat) than other white fish such as cod (<1% fat), but less fatty than mackerel (11-25% fat). Also in terms of flakiness it is between. Both texture and flavor are very refined. Luckily you don't see the head of the gurnard in the risotto. It is prettier than monkfish 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not only does that sound great, I imagine it makes great risotto cakes the next day (always a top priority for me). But I agree that a more attractive fish would be more appetizing. 😉


    1. Hi Emmy, good to see you back. You’ve reminded me to make more risotto than we need on purpose to be able to make risotto cakes the next day. You don’t see the head of the fish in the final dish, and it sure is tasty. Monkfish is even less attractive and more tasty.


  3. This looks like a winner, Stefan. I think I’d prefer your method of incorporating the fish rather than the restaurant’s. It reminds me of a dish Mom made, though she didn’t include any seafood like you did here. Pity because this does sound good. 🙂


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