Fish Sauce

About this recipe

We make this sauce twice a year (Good Friday and Christmas Eve) and serve it with polenta. Place the polenta on platters in the middle of the table and give each person a bowl of sauce. Then take your fork, break off a piece of polenta, dip it in the sauce, and enjoy.


Place a large saucepot on the stove; turn heat to just under medium and fry:

  • 4-5 tbsp. olive oil,
  • 1 cooking onion (diced),
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (squashed, added whole, then removed before browning).

When the onion looks good, add:

  • 1 lb. cuttlefish (chopped),
  • 2-3 whole squid cut into rings,
  • ½ lb. mixed seafood (comes in a bag, frozen),
  • 1 (10 oz.) can clams (drained through paper towel to catch all the sand—save the water).
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley,
  • 1 tbsp. salt and 1½-2 tsp. chili pepper.

Cook for 10-15 minutes to evaporate most water, and then add:

  • 1 cup white wine.

Reduce heat, cover, and let wine absorb into fish for 5 minutes. Remove lid, turn heat back up, and cook another few minutes until the wine has almost evaporated. Then add:

  • 4 (28 oz.) cans plum tomatoes (either hand-squashed or blended),
  • the strained clam water from above,
  • 1 large carrot (peeled),
  • 1 stalk celery (not peeled).

Bring to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2-3 hours. Then add:

  • a small piece of monkfish (4 oz.),
  • a small piece of skate (4 oz.),
  • 1 lb. shrimp,
  • 10-15 mussels (and maybe a few small crab legs).

Cook another 20 minutes with the lid off. When it’s ready, discard the celery and carrot.


  • Buy your fish from a real fish market.
  • Don’t add Parmesan cheese to pasta with fish sauce.
  • If you don't have monkfish or skate, substitute any other whitefish fillets.
  • You can also substitite scallops for the shrimp, or use a combination of the two.
    For a simpler version, just follow these rules: cook hard fish longer (and with wine), and add your soft fish at the end, so it doesn’t break up.

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