Calabrian Fish Ragu

Calabrian Fish Ragu

This is a fish pasta in a richly spiced fish ragu pasta sauce. It's a great recipe to stretch fish further and cook it in a unique way that's outrageously delicious with big, bold Italian Southern Italian flavours, inspired by nduja which originates from Calabria (hence, the name!)


Calabrian spiced fish:

  • 250g / 8 oz firm white fish fillets, skinless, boneless, cut into 2 cm / 0.8" cubes (barramundi, snapper, cod, tilapia)
  • 3/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika (sub ordinary paprika)
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes (red pepper flakes), feel free to reduce/omit
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1/2 tsp caster / superfine sugar
  • 3/4 tsp cooking / kosher salt
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


  • 250g/8 oz linguine pasta (or fettuccine, spaghetti)
  • 1 tbsp cooking / kosher salt, for pasta water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup tomato passata (US: tomato puree)


  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • Parmesan cheese, finely grated, for serving


  • 1 1/2 cups stale bread, torn/chopped into irregular 1cm/0.4" pieces (60g)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch cooking / kosher salt

1. Toast black peppercorn and fennel in a small frypan (no oil) over medium high heat for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until it smells fragrant and the fennel is lightly browned. Transfer to a mortar and use a pestle and grind to a powder while still hot.

2. Transfer to a medium bowl with remaining Calabrian spiced fish ingredients. Stir well with a spatula until combined. Set aside.

3. Boil 3 litres of water with the cooking salt. Cook pasta per packet directions. Just before draining, scoop out 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking water. Then drain in a colander and leave until ready to use.

4. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large deep skillet or pot over medium heat (Note 5). Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the fish and tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Add tomato passata. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water and simmer for 2 minutes.

5. Add pasta and 3/4 of the parsley. Toss for 1 minute to coat the pasta with the sauce. Most of the fish will break up into flakes but some will remain in larger chunks - this is good! We don't want disintegrated mush, nor giant chunks. Once the pasta turns red and the sauce and fish bits are clinging to the pasta straws, remove from heat and divide between bowls immediately.

6. Sprinkle with pasta, pangrattato and parmesan. Eat immediately!


Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F (160°C fan). Toss bread, oil and salt in a small bowl. Spread on a tray and bake for 10 minutes, tossing at the 5 minute mark, or until light golden and fully crisp.

1. Firm white fish fillets - Works best with fairly firm white fish fillets that are not too thick. Some suggestions: snapper, dory, barramundi, bream, tilapia, pollock, cod, flathead, perch, ling, bass, basa, hake, hoki.

I recommend avoiding:

Fish that dry out easily when cooked - Like swordfish, tuna, bonito, kingfish, marlin.

Delicate and thin-filleted fish - Like flounder, sole, plaice, turbot, whiting. The texture of the flesh is a bit too delicate for this type of cooking.

Oily fish - Like sardines or mackerel. A bit too overwhelming, flavours don’t quite match.

2. Grinding whole spices will give the best flavour in this recipe, it really makes a difference here. I only emphasise this when it matters, I will use pre-ground whenever I can! But you can use pre-ground if that's all you've got. 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper and 1/2 tsp fennel powder. No toasting, just mix in with other spices.

3. Tomato passata -

4. Back up - use 1/2 cup panko instead, toast for shorter time.

5. Cooking vessel needs to be large enough to toss the sauce with the pasta.

*Recipe on video and text may differ from each other!

How to cook Calabrian Fish Ragu:

Original Fish dish