Fish and Pasta – Penne in Guazzetto

finished dish

The other day the daily edition of TastingTable arrived in my inbox, which promised an article about Roman food. I love food from Italy – from all regions – so I opened it right away.

Then I saw Danny Meyer’s name, and felt the need to read on. Turns out the email was about his new trattoria, Maialino, in the Grammercy Park neighborhood, and included a recipe. I’m a big fan of Danny Meyer’s ventures, so I took a closer look at the recipe and it seemed very doable for a weekday, post-work meal.

bread and garlic

It also looked delicious.  Simple, real ingredients – basically fish, olive oil, pasta, tomatoes, and herbs – and simple preparation.  It looked like the clean flavors of the dish would really come through.

I did find that cooking the fish in the oil was not as neat as I anticipated it to be.  The fish sort of stuck to my pan, but it was easy enough to release it once I added the tomatoes (their juice essentially deglazed it, lifting up any caramelized bits).  It all cooked very fast, too.

Additionally, I am not big fan of long pastas – spaghetti, linguini, fettuccine.  I much prefer smaller pasta shapes, like penne, rigatoni, and oricchete.  I am a big fan of rustichella d’abruzzo pasta, so I used their penne for this dish.  They prepare their pasta with  more traditional techniques, from their special bronze molds, to long and low drying times, which preserves more of the nutrition in the pasta. Since I did use this pasta, I’ve changed the name of the recipe to reflect that.

The dish was extremely well-received in my household.  Our resident picky eater loved it and asked that it be made again.  I am sure we will make it semi-regularly for the foreseeable future.  It also made a lot of food – we got two dinners each out of it, and figured we spent about $12 total for the ingredients, so it’s an economical dish as well.

fish in three stages

Penne in Guazzetto
Adapted from Nick Anderer, Maialino, New York

6 ounces skinless cod fillet, cut into 3-inch-wide strips (preferably line-caught Pacific cod)
sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (I used Aleppo pepper)
One 28-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes, preferably organic, crushed by hand

1/2 pound penne pasta
1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped (about ½ cup)
12 basil leaves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs, toasted in olive oil until golden brown

Generously cover each piece of fish with salt and let stand for 12 minutes to firm the flesh. Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry.

In a deep saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to ripple, add the fish and cook until the cod turns opaque and starts to lightly brown, about 3 minutes; turn the fish over and cook for 1 minute longer.

Add the garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the cod begins to flake easily when pierced with the tip of a knife, 5 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and add to the tomato sauce, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Stir the pasta water into the sauce until emulsified, then add the parsley and basil and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper and divide among plates. Sprinkle each plate with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil.

Serve immediately.  Serves 4 to 6.

This post is participating in Real Food Wednesday, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

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