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Gurnard, Marsala caper & tomato stocky Ragu

- the gurnard can be substituted with chunky sea bass, white grouper, ricciola (μαγιατικο), dentice (σφυριδα) or other sweet fibrous meaty white fish.

Gurnard has a particularly sweet stock, which is why its often a stockfish for bouilabaise or κακαβια - the heads are used for a reduced stock which stews the tomato caper sauce. This makes a heady tart - sweet salty sauce which in incredible with the aniseedy lift of the fennel seeds and the peppers.

Ask for a couple of small gurnards or one larger sea bass for a main for two.

Ask for the fish to be filleted, pin boned and skinned, and the heads cleaned & reserved, along with any fins and backbone.

-the fish, filleted cleaned, and its head & bone reserved.

-1 tbsp good quality capers packed in Salt (we want chocolatey franrant stuff not the acidic vinegar or brined ones. This is important. ) rinsed under a tap for a minute or two.
-2 Tbsp fennel seeds
- olive oil
- 2 cups tomato sauce (made ahead is best) *
-pinch of red pepper flakes
-pinch of oregano
-1/4 cup marsala wine
-1/4 cup white wine
-1 ladle of water from the pasta pot
-juice of 1/3 lemon or less
- black pepper, ground fine.
-parsley to serve.
1-tbsp tomato paste

1-2 fish heads cleaned, and any spine bones reserved.
2banana shallot
black pepper
bay leaf
1 tbsp sea salt

i use fiocchetti but it d be fine with dry pennette, gigli, fresh pappardelle cut short, or with breadcrumbs and linguine.

Put stock ingredients to simmer in water, (starting from cold ) for an hour at least - with bay. Cover for the 1st 30 mins.

Fry fennel seeds, red pepper flake, black pepper and garlic, for 1min in hot oil til just about browning, add tomato paste, reduce a little then ad tomato sauce. When dry again add capers, oregano, lemon squeeze, and marsala wine.
Stir & simmer until reduced in half, then add ladle by laddle a bit of stock keeping the tomato simmering.
Add more pasta water if its drying out, simmer this for around 30-40 mins and keep stiring the bottom.

While this simmers you can par boil your pasta - a minute or two less than the pack says. It ll finish cooking in the sauce.

taste sauce ; you want tarty but sweet tomatoness, salty deep capers with fennel seed lightness headyness.

Oil and salt / pepper the fillets and fry briefly in oil, gently.
turn, total 1 min each side, not more. These will keep cooking in the warm pasta.

Add tom. sauce and sprinkle white wine. keep half sauce in pan. Add al dente pasta and stir, take off heat. add parsley, crumble fish with a fork, in the pasta. Add a ladle of your pasta water and reduce a little more.

Add the rest of the sauce & drizzle raw olive oil and serve with remaining parsley
- fresh breadcrumbs add a nice texture, optional.