Pasta Pescatore

When we are traveling in Italy, anytime we get close to the sea, we always head for a good local restaurant to enjoy seafood. One dish we order often and thoroughly enjoy is Pasta Pescatore, which is simply pasta topped with a mixed seafood tomato sauce.

The seafood within the sauce may change depending on what is fresh that day, but generally there are at least 4 or 5 different types of seafood within the sauce. I recently visited the seafood counter at Whole Foods and asked for a good sampling of their freshest seafood so I could make this dish at home.

I like to top my Pasta Pescatore with a sprinkling of gremolata, which is just a mixture of fresh garlic, parsley, and lemon peel, all minced together. I find this adds a nice zest to the dish and really brings the flavors to life. I generally serve this sauce on spaghetti, but you could use any long pasta that you prefer.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 

Pasta Pescatore

Pasta Pescatore

Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

A mixed seafood pasta in a spicy tomato sauce.


  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Minced Onion
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Peeled & Minced
  • 12 Cleaned Clams
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 1/2 Cups Seafood Stock
  • 3 Cups Pureed or Chopped Tomatoes
  • 12 Sea Scallops
  • 20 Cleaned Mussels
  • 12 Large Shrimp, Cleaned
  • 1/2 Pound Fresh Squid, Cleaned & Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Pound Spaghetti Or Pasta Of Choice


  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Parsley
  • Zest of One Lemon
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled


  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and then cook the onions until they are soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, and cook another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the wine and fish stock and bring to a boil, then add the clams and cook until they open.
  4. Add the tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and add the remaining seafood, and cook over low heat while the pasta cooks.
  6. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until it is "al dente".
  7. Mince the gremolata ingredients together and set aside.
  8. Drain the pasta, top with a scoop of the tomato sauce and toss well.
  9. Serve in four individual bowls, topped with more sauce, and dividing the seafood up evenly between the four dishes.
  10. Sprinkle some gremolata on each dish and serve immediately.

Did you make this recipe?

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  1. Love this dish, however no matter how much I wash the clams they’re always gritty. Any suggestions on how to get rid of the sand.


    1. Elivie, we add some cornmeal to the bowl of clams with cold water. Let sit in the refrigerator for an hour to let the clams do their job. They will take in the cornmeal and spit out the sand.

  2. Why Whole Foods? Why not go to your local fishmonger? Or, if you are near a Chinatown, a typical Chinese fish/seafood store. Support local and independent! The food will be better, too…

  3. Any recommendations for as to why my sauce is very thin and watery. It takes delicious but it is so thin that it goes to the bottom of the bowl and you don’t get much sauce when you eat the pasta

    1. Ashley, it might have been due to the brand of tomatoes you used (some are much more watery than others), or simply that the seafood you chose released a lot of its liquids as it cooked. You can easily thicken the sauce by taking the seafood from the sauce with a slotted spoon and cooking the sauce on high heat for a few minutes until thick. Then simply return the seafood to the pot to rewarm.

  4. I cannot find seafood stock anywhere! What can I use as a substitute? I read clam juice but I can’t find that either in my local supermarket. Can I use vegetable or chicken stock?

  5. Hi Gabriela
    I plan to make your recipe for Christmas Eve.  I would like to be able to make part of this in the morning and finish at dinner time. I don’t want the seafood to be over cooked. Can you suggest how to “do ahead” part of the recipe and what to leave until dinner time?

    1. Patricia, this really isn’t a good recipe to make ahead of time. The entire recipe doesn’t take a lot of time and it is best made just before you eat it.

    2. B.s.. you can totally make it ahead of time. Just put everything together as the recipe tells you minus the seafood. Let it simmer all day. And a bit of water and more stock. Add seafood a little bit before serving. The flavors that develop over the day simmering makes the dish divine.

  6. Hi Deb,

    I’m a VERY novice cook, but you are so clear and make this dish seem so simple to make that I am going to give it a try. I am a bit confused and have two questions. First question. There’s no tomatoes sauce within your list of ingredients, but on the instructions you refer to “the sauce”, are you referring to the chopped tomatoes? My 2nd question. For the chopped tomatoes, you can can I used the “canned dice tomatoes”? I thanks in advance for your reply.


  7. Hi there, this might sound like an odd comment but I was searching around and this dish sounds… *vaguely* similar to this very traditional italian dish that my mother would always make for my brother and I growing up.

    We called it “Pasca Besh”, which was like a child’s mispronounciation of a real name for a dish – thus I never really knew what it was, but I am fairly sure it’s related to this dish. My motber’s family was from the coast near Bari, and my mother spent a great deal of time learning how to cook from her grandmother, who was born there.

    ANYWAY – this “Pasca Besh” is similar but different to this Pasta Pescatore. To make Pasca Besh you need to make a fish broth using extremely fresh fish/fish carcass/fishheads from something like mackerel or bluefish – that’s the best; you want the fishiest oiliest freshest stuff you can find. we used to use bluefish/mackerel we’d caught and start making it literally minutes after killing/gutting the fish – has to be really fresh and oily and fish. Nowadays I go to the fish market and get some leftover parts from that mornings catch, not quite as good but still fresh. Anyway, so what you do is take your time making a strong fish broth with a LIGHT tomato base – you don’t want it heavy at all, you want it to remain at the consistency of a light broth – NO heavy cream or thickening agents at all, just the usual stuff for a tasty fish stock. The bluefish/mackeral will be so strong you won’t need much – celery, salt and pepper, tomatoes of course, white wine, garlic…. use what you like but nothing too spicy or extreme. With all the strong whole fish and being slowly cooked for maybe 4 or 5 hours, this should be a STRONG stock – strong enough to solidy into aspic when refrigerated. after straining it through it should actually look pretty oily to the extent that you can almost see an oily film on the surface if you did it up right……. Separately while you are doing this, you’ll want to be cooking up some spaghetti, but you have to break the spaghetti up into like thirds or quarters, and then cook it normally. You add the cooked spaghetti to the tomato fish stick along with some fresh parsley, maybe shake some parmesan on top, and that’s it – “Pasca Besh”. It’s a little odd because it’s a rather watery fish stock with chopped up spaghetti as the only solid ingredient. Outsiders trying it have balked at it being “spaghetti in water” and finding it bizarre and unappealing, but I freaking LOVE THIS STUFF!

    But I must admit, I am *very* curious as to whether you have encountered this dish in a form like the one I described. Remember, my great-grandmother (who taught my mother this dish) was from Bari, which is located pretty far south right on the eastern coast.

  8. Excellent dish. I change up the quantity and types of seafood all the time. I lived in Italy for a number of years, my Italian friends would be proud that I make this dish just like them.

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