Francesca Cooks: Pasta of the Maremma

Lunch on the Tuscan Coast

Beautiful mid-week day in June.

Having lunch on the Tuscan Coast

Pasta on the seaside. Bellissimo!

When I was in Italy a couple of months ago, I had a fabulous pasta that was cooked in a seafood broth. When I say this what I mean is that the pasta was not cooked separately and then tossed in the broth. It was cooked in the broth. The ingredients were simple. The taste was rich, amazing. Unforgettable. I came home determined to replicate the dish. It’s taken six tries and two months, but here it is. And it was worth every minute of effort.

I have spent a great deal of time in Italy in the last two years. Certainly, the way I cook Italian food has changed dramatically. I’ve taken lessons with a wonderful woman in Florence — Firenze, and she has been like having an Italian, I would say Mom, but really more like a big sister. I often make my own pasta from scratch, but never things like penne or rigatoni — I buy good Italian dried pasta for those varieties.

So here you go . . . worth every minute. The pasta itself is very quick to make. The stock takes some time, so I make enough to make it at least twice, and freeze some.

Pasta with fish cooked in a shellfish stock

Simple pasta with fish, richly flavored with a shellfish broth, with a little spice from the red pepper.

Shellfish stock

  • 1/2 lb. shrimp in shells, preferably with heads on **** see note below
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 sliced stalk celery
  • Handful of Italian Parsley, very coarsely chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 peppercorns

Put all ingredients into a stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 1 1/2 hours. Pour stock though a colander into a another pot or bowl. Then use a sieve or cheesecloth to strain stock into 2 cup quantities. Refrigerate or freeze.

How much shellfish stock do you need? — need 1 1/2 cups for a little more than 2 servings. Not quite 3. Think we’d need 3 cups to make four servings.

**** Obviously, the best way to make shellfish stock is to use the heads and the shells from shrimp or other crustaceans that you are using in another dish. And then you freeze the stock, so that you have it when you need it. In my hectic life, this doesn’t happen very often. This pasta dish is so good, that I am willing to sacrifice a few shrimp to the cause. This batch of stock made enough to prepare pasta for eight. I would definitely use crabs or other shellfish — use what you have. Note. I did try twice using fish stock, and the flavor was too strong.

Pasta (this serves two)

  • 1/2 filet red snapper, cut into small pieces **** see note below
  • 1/4 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine
  • handful Italian parsley, chopped
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 1/2 cups shellfish stock
  • ground red Italian pepper to taste
  • fresh basil, cut into large pieces — or whole small leaves
  • Penne pasta for two

Cut red snapper into small pieces and season with salt and pepper. Start your pasta water boiling — water takes forever to boil, so get it going! Throw some salt — preferably Kosher salt or sea salt into the water.

Saute fish in olive oil until very lightly cooked. Remove to plate.

Saute onion until tender. Add garlic close to the time the onion is finishing (1/2 clove garlic – if large, or a small clove). Then add the wine.

When water is at a rolling boil, add the Penne pasta. SET A TIMER! Cook pasta for 3 minutes in salted water. Drain immediately.

Add a cup of stock— or more depending on quantity of people you are preparing for,  to the onion and garlic. Once heated, add the pasta and a little of the parsley. Add red pepper — normally a couple of grinds is plenty.

Cook for a couple of minutes. The pasta, which is not completely cooked will finish cooking in the stock sauce. It will gradually absorb the stock. Watch it, because you may need to add a little more stock. At the same time, you don’t want to put in so much to start that you drown it.

Add tomatoes — you want to put them in for at least a couple of minutes.

Finally, add fish back in to cook just until hot through.

Add more parsley right as pasta is finishing.

Put into bowls/ on plates — put 2 or so pieces fresh basil. Serve with bread.

**** What kind of fish? Any kind of reasonably mild white fish would be fine. Red Snapper, Redfish, Bronzino, Sea Bass. Also — very important on this dish — go very light on the garlic, or leave it out altogether, or it will overpower the dish.

Also, you do not need huge quantities of fish per dish. It is a Pasta dish with fish — not a Fish dish with pasta on the side. 

Foolish Waiter

A very capable and funny man, our waiter.

9 responses to “Francesca Cooks: Pasta of the Maremma

  1. Hi Anand, I think it depends on what you are serving with it. That would be a pretty standard size for me to eat, but you are right — if you have big eaters, you may need more food. I would normally serve olives and cheese ahead, and then a big salad and some crusty bread. And if it was a dinner for company, then dessert as well. My daughter and I would typically eat about that much pasta and a salad :-).


  2. Thank you — it really is very easy. A note: While I was working on the recipe, I tried cooking the pasta completely in the stock/broth, but the texture wasn’t as good as it is with the light par-boil to start.


  3. Reblogged this on Ann Cavitt Fisher and commented:

    Here is one of my recipes originally posted on my Francesca Bergamasco site. This one took four or five tries to work out, since I was working only from a taste memory . . . but it was well worth the effort!


  4. Reblogged this on Ann Cavitt Fisher and commented:

    I originally posted this on my Francesca Bergamasco site. This recipe took me four or five tries to work out completely, since I was working from a taste memory. I finally got it, have cooked it several times now — and it was well worth the effort to get the recipe right!

    Liked by 1 person

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