Our family’s Mediterranean fish in tomato sauce is probably the easiest fish recipe you’ll ever make. This enticingly flavorful recipe comes from my husband’s family, right from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. You can use pretty much any boneless white fish you like here. Fish fillets are slowly simmered with tomato sauce, garlic cloves, roasted bell peppers, spices, and fresh herbs. Consequently, with very few ingredients, this recipe manages to produce a lot of flavor! And the best part is, it takes very little effort. This easy, healthy fish recipe is a delicious entree for a weeknight, or anytime.
My husband grew up in Israel on shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Fresh fish was a major part of their family diet, and it was prepared in many different ways. His mother, of Sephardic Jewish ancestry, loved to make this healthy fish recipe for Shabbat and holidays. Her fish in tomato sauce has been in the family for generations, and it’s one of my husband’s personal favorite dishes.
This Mediterranean fish in tomato sauce is so easy to make. After defrosting your fish (if using frozen fillets), it only takes about 30 minutes to prepare and cook. The sauce is mildly spicy and slightly sweet, filled with a wonderful garlicky flavor.
While 20 minutes might seem like a long time to simmer fish fillets, the bed of herbs below helps to keep them away from direct heat. Consequently the fish slowly simmers, soaking up the rich flavor of the sauce. The fillets may separate a bit while cooking, depending on how thin they’re cut; sea bass and cod tend to hold up quite well.
What To Serve with Mediterranean Fish in Tomato Sauce
I like to serve this Mediterranean fish in tomato sauce over cauliflower couscous for a low carb, gluten free, light and satisfying meal. Additionally you may serve it over regular couscous, basmati rice, or even mashed potatoes, if you’re so inclined. Cauliflower couscous is really delicious, and it’s kosher for Passover too, which makes it super versatile.
You will need to purchase roasted bell peppers, or learn how to roast bell peppers (they’re very easy to make). Otherwise, the preparation is beyond simple.
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- 4 boneless thin, lean white fish fillets (sea bass, branzino, sea bream, flounder, or similar)
- 1 1/2 cups hot water
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp sugar or 1 tsp honey (optional)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (adds a slight kick - if you're spice sensitive, feel free to omit)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 large roasted red bell peppers, peeled and sliced (see notes)
- 2 handfuls fresh cilantro or parsley
- 12 cloves garlic
- Cauliflower couscous, regular couscous, rice, or mashed potatoes for serving - optional (see notes)
- If your fish is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Rinse your fish fillets with cool water and pat dry. In a small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together hot water, tomato paste, paprika, sugar or honey (optional), cayenne and 3/4 tsp salt (if you're watching your salt intake you can cut it to 1/2 tsp or less, as needed).
- In a large saute pan, spread out the cilantro or parsley, roasted bell pepper slices, and garlic cloves to make an even "bed" for the fish fillets.
- Place the fish fillets on top of the bed of herbs, peppers and garlic. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, then sprinkle evenly with the red pepper flakes.
- Pour the seasoned tomato paste liquid over the top of the fillets, coating each fillet with sauce. Turn on heat and bring the sauce to a medium simmer.
- Reduce heat to medium low, cover the saute pan, venting slightly, and let the fish simmer for about 15 minutes, basting every 3-4 minutes with sauce, until the fish is opaque and flaky.
- Remove the lid from the pan and turn up the heat to a higher simmer. Let the sauce simmer and reduce for about 5-7 more minutes, continuing to baste the fillets, until the sauce thickens a bit and the largest garlic cloves are soft.
- Serve fillets over couscous, cauliflower couscous, rice, mashed potatoes, or your favorite starch (use cauliflower, rice, or potatoes to make gluten free). Top the fish with sauce, garlic cloves, and sliced peppers. We usually serve it with a light spinach salad, roasted vegetables, or sautéed greens on the side.