Pasta Fra Diavolo is one of my favorite pasta dishes...I love any type of pasta with tomato and seafood. Traditionally this is made with either shrimp or lobster, but I made it with halibut because that's what I had at hand.
The name, fra diavolo, translates from Italian as "brother devil," and there are numerous theories on it's origin. While many believe this to be Italian in origin others claim that it was invented in New York City (to learn more about this you can read an archived New York Times article by clicking here).
One of the more common theories on the dish's origin is that it was named after an Italian monk who "went astray" (living a life of crime or found sleeping with a prostitute, depending on the story).
Two ingredients that are essential for this dish, and which set it apart just slightly from other seafood/tomato/pasta dishes are red wine and hot peppers. The wine, some say, is in the dish to represent the downfall of the monk in question, and the pepper, of course, is said to be there to represent the devil.
What also makes this dish a little different is how the recipe begins, by slowly cooking and mashing anchovies in olive oil with garlic, onions, and other seasonings. This is what some may refer to as a soffritto, it's a simple method that adds a big flavor boost to the recipe.
Because I used halibut, opposed to a traditional and heartier crustacean, I added it to the sauce and gently poached it for a few minutes just before tossing it with the pasta.
Penne Fra Diavolo with Halibut
Yield: 4 portions
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup red wine
2 cups tomato purée
1 pound diced halibut
1/2 pound linguine
Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, red pepper, basil, parsley, and salt in a skillet over medium heat. Stir and mash the ingredients with the back of a wooden spoon until the onion and garlic is translucent but not browned. Stir in the wine and simmer it for a minute or two, then add the tomato puree. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook it for 5 or 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boil the pasta until al dente. Stir the fish into the sauce, bring it back to a simmer and poach it for about 5 minutes. When the fish is cooked gently fold in the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors of the sauce and fish permeate the pasta.