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Crispy Snapper with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Penne


  • 1 pound penne pasta

  • Salt

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1 fresh or dry bay leaf

  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 cup white wine (eyeball it)

  • 1 cup seafood stock or clam juice (eyeball it)

  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (15 ounces)

  • 8-10 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped

  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained

  • 1 cup fine cornmeal

  • 4 red snapper fillets, skin on (6 ounces each)

  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped (a handful)


Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring it up to a boil for the pasta. Once at a boil, add some salt and the pasta and cook it until al dente, according to package directions. Right before draining, remove and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta thoroughly and reserve. While the water is coming up to a boil, start the spicy tomato sauce: place a medium size saucepot or skillet over medium-high heat with two turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Add the garlic, onion, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, until the onions start to get tender. Add the white wine and cook for 1 minute, then add the seafood stock, tomatoes, kalamata olives and capers. Bring up to a bubble then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. While the spicy tomato sauce is coming up to a simmer, you can start the crispy snapper: place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with three turns of the pan of EVOO, about 3 tablespoons. While the skillet is heating up, pour the cornmeal into a dish with high sides. Season both sides of the snapper with salt and pepper, then place the fillets into the cornmeal, pressing the meal onto each side of the fillet to coat them completely, shaking off any excess. When the skillet is hot, place the coated snapper fillets in the skillet skin-side down first. Cook the fillets for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Remove and discard the bay leaf from the spicy tomato sauce, then add the basil and stir to combine. Place the drained pasta back into the pasta cooking pot over medium heat add the cup of reserved pasta cooking liquid and half of the spicy tomato sauce. Toss to combine. To serve, divide the pasta between four serving plates. Top the pasta with a crispy snapper fillet and some additional sauce.