Paccheri al Ragù di Rana Pescatrice (Pasta with Monkfish)

This is what I had for dinner tonight. Quick and simple, but very tasty. There are a couple of tricks that I used:

  • Instead of dicing the fish and then browning it, I browned it first and then diced it. This way it is much easier to brown.
  • I first simmered the tomato sauce without the fish, and then turned off the heat and added the fish. This way the fish won’t become dry.
  • I added some milk to the tomato sauce. Just as with Ragù alla Bolognese, this helps to smooth the tomato flavor.

You could also use another very firm fish instead of monkfish for this, like swordfish or mahi mahi.


For 2 servings

150-200 grams (.33-.44 lb) short pasta, I used paccheri

250-300 grams (.55-.66 lb) monkfish fillet

250 ml (1 cup) peeled tomatoes, pureed in the food processor or blender

60 ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine

60 ml (1/4 cup) milk

1 garlic clove

2 Tbsp olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley


Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Peel the garlic clove and slice it thickly. Add the garlic to the hot oil. Tilt the pan, and cook the garlic until it is golden. Then discard the garlic. This way, you end up with garlic-infused oil.

Add the monkfish and cook over high heat for about 1 minute per side. The monkfish should stay raw on the inside.

Take the monkfish out of the pan and reserve.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine.

Use a wooden spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits stuck to the pan from browning the fish.

Add the tomatoes…

…and the milk. Stir well. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir regularly.

Dice the fish, and season it with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add the juices that will have leaked from the fish to the sauce.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a pot of water to a boil. When the water boils, add salt and the pasta. Set the timer for the time indicated for al dente on the package.

About 5 minutes before the pasta will be ready, the tomato sauce should be nice and thick. It should in fact be slightly thicker than you want it to be, because the fish will release some liquid when it is cooked in the sauce.

Add the fish to the sauce and turn off the heat.

Stir to coat the fish with the sauce.

Cover the pan, and allow the residual heat of the sauce to cook the fish for about 5 minutes. Stir after a couple of minutes.

After five minutes the fish will be cooked. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If the sauce has become too cold, put it over low heat.

Drain the pasta when it is al dente and add it to the sauce. Add most of the parsley.

Stir to mix.

Serve on preheated plates, sprinkled with the remaining parsley.

Wine pairing

This is great with a dry Italian white that has been aged in used wooden barrels (not new barriques), like a Verdicchio Riserva from Jesi or Matelica.


Pork tenderloin with apricot ginger sauce.


8 thoughts on “Paccheri al Ragù di Rana Pescatrice (Pasta with Monkfish)

  1. Have never used this method of browning and like the use of the fresh tomatoes . . . do not usually add milk either, so am taking a bit of a lesson into the kitchen . . . actually have just poured a glass of verdicchio for Sunday lunch . . . not from quite as noble a heritage as yours . . . 🙂 !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great tips Stefan, duly noted. My (Italian) grandmother always added a knob of butter to her tomato sauce. Ada Boni added a dollop of bechamel to her tomato soup. So it’s about time we stopped fearing the addition of dairy to tomatoes !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We love monkfish but sadly it is not widely available here. I usually add a pinch of baking soda into tomato-based sauces to help neutralize the acidity, otherwise, I just couldn’t eat it! The dish sounds and looks wonderful, I’m always looking for creative ways to serve fish and this one definitely hits the spot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A pinch of baking soda would also do the trick. Many Italians use a pinch of sugar. Rather that neutralizing the acidity that masks it. I find that simmering tomatoes longer also helps.


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