Tomato Sauce with Mixed Seafood

Versions of this sauce appear all along Italy’s coastline, where fresh seafood is abundant. Many varieties of fish and shellfish can be used, but it is best to stick to firm-fleshed white fish that won’t fall apart in the sauce. Delicate fish such as sole and flounder are not appropriate. It is very important not to overcook the fish and, above all, it should be impeccably fresh.

Instructions for cleaning squid follow, although if your fishmonger will clean the squid for you, so much the better. Tell him or her to cut the body into ¼-inch-wide rings and to include the cleaned tentacles. Buy only young, small squid; avoid large, tough ones. Adding the salt after the squid is cooked will keep it tender.

While the most popular purpose for this sauce is to serve it with either linguine or spaghetti, it can be eaten simply with thick slices of crusty Italian or French bread, toasted or not. Drizzle the bread or toast with a little extra-virgin olive oil before dunking.

Tomato Sauce with Mixed Seafood

Yield: Makes approximately 2 cups. This recipe is sufficient for saucing 1 pound of pasta.


For the Mixed Seafood:
• 1 dozen smallest live littleneck clams, 1 pound live thumb-sized west coast clams or cockles, or 1 pound live medium mussels
• Salt
• Handful of cornmeal or flour
• 1¼ pounds fresh or thawed, frozen squid
• 1 pound firm, white-fleshed fish fillets such as cod, haddock, halibut, or turbot, cut into • 2-inch-wide strips
• ½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

For the Sauce:
• 2 cups canned, peeled plum tomatoes in juice, or 2 pounds fresh, sweet, mature vine-ripened tomatoes
• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
• 2 large cloves garlic, minced
• 1 small yellow onion, minced
• 4 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• ½ cup good-quality dry white wine
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano, or ½ teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
• 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 teaspoon salt


Clean the seafood:
Using a stiff brush, scrub the clams or mussels well; if using mussels, remove their beards. Place the clams or mussels in a bowl of cool water with a few big pinches of salt and the cornmeal or flour. Place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or as long as overnight so that the shellfish will purge themselves of sand. Then drain, scrub again, and rinse well in cool running water.

To clean the squid, holding the body (sac) in one hand and the tentacle end in the other, pull them apart. The two parts will separate easily. Using scissors or a knife, cut off the tentacles just above the eyes; discard everything below the eyes. Use your fingers to push out the small, bony “beak” at the base of the tentacles. Pull out the cellophane-like “spine” from the body and discard it. Peel off the speckled skin. Rinse the squid well in cool running water. Cut the body into ¼-inch-wide rings. Leave the tentacles whole unless they are particularly large; if they are, cut them in half.

Thoroughly pat the clams, mussels, squid, fish fillet strips and peeled shrimp dry. Refrigerate until needed.

Make the sauce:

If using canned tomatoes, drain them, reserving their juice for another use. Using your fingers, push out the excess seeds from each tomato. Chop the tomatoes and set aside. If using fresh tomatoes, slip them into a saucepan of rapidly boiling water and blanch for 30 to 45 seconds. Drain the tomatoes and immediately plunge them into cold water. Drain again and, using a paring knife, lift off the skins and cut out the tough core portions. Cut into quarters lengthwise and, using your fingers, push out the excess seeds. Chop the tomatoes and place in a colander to drain for 5 minutes.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the parsley and continue to sauté until the vegetables soften but do not color, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and wine and continue to cook, stirring, until the alcohol evaporates, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes and simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the squid; sauté for 5 minutes, tossing frequently to ensure even cooking. Add the salt, the clams or mussels, strips of fish fillet, and shrimp and stir to expose all of the seafood to the heat of the pan. Cook until the mollusks open, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and remove from the heat. Do not serve this sauce with grated cheese.


Recipe by Julia della Croce | © Julia della Croce

Learn a Delicious Tomato Sauce with Mixed Seafood, Courtesy of Julia della Croce. Makes 2 Cups. A Versions of this Sauce Appear all Along Italy’s Coastline.