A short history lesson and a recipe
I wasn’t about to post a dish with an unusual name like Red snapper Livornese without first getting a clue of its origin. The nutshell version is that this Jewish dish was created in the Tuscan area of Italy called Livorno during the end of the 16th century. The period was a time of growth, networking and prosperity. People, goods, culture, music, languages and ingredients and recipes circulated through this network.
Livorno’s most famous fish dishes all boast Jewish origins. Many highlight tomatoes, a New World fruit, first introduced to the city and to Italy by Sephardic merchants in the 16th century.
I was surprised to find so many recipes for this healthy dish. The sauce is similar in all of them but there seem to be two different ways to cook it. Some prefer baking the fish with the sauce, while other recipes say to fry the fish and then top it with the sauce. I decided on the baked method because I’m not keen on frying fish in my house unless the weather is so nice I can open up all the windows. Plus, I figured why add calories if I didn’t need to?
Our house smelled divine last night as it baked and it tasted delicious. I served it with pappardelle pasta which was perfect. I’ll definitely be making this again.
A few notes: I like using whole tomatoes even if the recipe calls for chopped tomatoes. San Marzano whole tomatoes are the best and I try to always have them on hand. Also, I really think this dish needs some salt and I added it. However capers are super-salty, so be careful how much salt you add.
Red snapper Livornese. Serves 4
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 small onion, chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), chopped or blended with an immersion blender
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 pound red snapper fillets
- 1 small lemon
- Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
In a large skillet heat olive oil and sauté the onion until it is tender and beginning to golden, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and continue to sauté for 1 more minute. Stir in tomatoes, wine, capers, red pepper flakes, and parsley. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. (You can simmer it covered but I covered the sauce with a spatter screen so that it could reduce a little.)
Spread 1/2 of the sauce in a large baking dish and arrange the snapper fillets in a single layer on top of the sauce. Lightly salt and pepper them and then squeeze lemon juice over the fillets. Spoon the remaining sauce over all.
Bake for 15 minutes for 1/2 inch thick fillets, or 30 minutes for 1 inch thick fillets. Snapper is done when it flakes easily with a fork.