Fish is stewed in the rich red sauce until tender and served on soft yellow polenta.






Skill level

Average: 5 (1 vote)

In this recipe the fish head is bathed in olive oil, wine and tomato, then cooked with vegetables and herbs until it releases its flavour into the sauce, which is strained before the fish flesh is added and cooked. 

Monkfish are native to the northern hemisphere, so if you are in the southern hemisphere, use stargazer or snapper. Your local fishmonger should be able to recommend the right substitution if you are unsure.


  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) monkfish (with the head if possible)
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • ½ brown onion, roughly chopped
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) white wine
  • 1 400 g (14 oz) tin whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • 2 sage leaves
  • soft polenta, to serve
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


  1. Prepare the monkfish by separating the head from the body. You will be using the head to make the sauce and adding the pieces of fish later.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat, add the fish head, carrot, celery and onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the wine and let it bubble away until it has reduced. Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes and their liquid. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, then add the rosemary, bay and sage leaves and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, carefully remove the skin and bones from the monkfish and cut the flesh into bite-sized chunks. Remove the fish head, vegetables and herbs from the sauce, and strain it through a wide-mesh strainer if needed. Place the fish pieces in the sauce and cook over low heat for 10–15 minutes until the fish has cooked through.
  4. Serve on soft polenta, finished with a scattering of parsley.


Recipe and images from Adriatico by Paola Bacchia, Smith Street Books, RRP $55.00