Red mullet pappardelle

by Rosie Birkett

A low maintenance, high impact supper or lunch for a blissful summer’s day

This is a pasta supper or lunch for a blissful summer’s day. It’s low maintenance and high impact, and celebrates the intense, nutty flavour of one of my favourite fish—the beautifully iridescent, pink-scaled red mullet. It takes the heady flavours I associate with balmy Mediterranean summers—fennel, tomato, rosemary, lemon and olive oil—and roasts them together in the oven before tossing fat, glossy ribbons of parpadelle egg pasta through it all with a lick of sumptuous saffron. It’s sunshine on your plate, whatever the weather.


2 whole fresh red mullet, scaled, gutted and cleaned by the fishmonger
A pinch of good quality saffron
½ bulb of fennel, finely sliced
100g small tomatoes, halved
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 glass of dry white wine
2 sprigs of rosemary
½ lemon, sliced
200g fresh pappardelle
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 tbsp fresh dill


Heat the oven to 200C. Bring the fish out of the fridge at least 30 mins before cooking to come up to room temperature. Place the pinch of saffron in a small bowl and cover with 100ml water.

In a roasting tray, toss the fennel with the tomatoes and red chilli. Season well and drizzle over a little olive oil to coat. Pour over the white wine and roast for 12 mins.

Stuff both fish cavities with rosemary and lemon slices, then season. Place on top of the fennel and cover with foil. Roast for 12 mins more, then remove the foil and cook for 3 mins.

While that’s happening, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pappardelle until al dente. Drain, reserving a little slosh of the pasta water.

Once the fish is cooked, remove it from the roasting tray and set aside to rest. Place the roasting tray over the hob on a medium heat and pour in the saffron and its juice, and the pasta cooking water. Add the pasta and toasted pine nuts, and toss well over the heat to combine all the flavours.

Remove the fins from the fish and pull the fillets off the bones, breaking them up into bite-sized pieces but keeping the skin intact (it has so much flavour)—be careful not to include any bones. Toss lightly with the pasta. Add the dill and toss that through too. Divide between warm plates and serve with freshly ground black pepper.

Recipe: Rosie Birkett
Images: Helen Cathcart