This quick and easy fish pasta recipe features hearty, flakey barramundi and fresh cherry tomatoes in a light sauce with garlic, lemon, and white wine.
We're busting out our FAVORITE (budget-friendly!) frozen barramundi today for a simple, lemony fish pasta. This recipe is fast enough for a summer weeknight, but elegant enough for entertaining!
Scroll to the recipe card below for a full ingredients list with exact quantities.
Before you jump in, there are a few things we want to highlight:
- Barramundi is a hearty, meaty white fish. We use (and love!) the sustainably farmed barramundi fillets from The Better Fish®. Find it in the freezer section, and defrost the fish in a bowl of cold water when you're ready to cook! Learn More: Where to Buy Barramundi.
- Red pepper flakes add a bit of heat and balance to this sauce. Don't skip them!
- Cherry tomatoes are added whole to the hot pan: Their skins will blister and eventually burst, which gives this sauce a ton of flavor. You can use a large diced tomato in a pinch, but the sauce won't have quite the same depth or texture.
- Lemon wedges are our finishing touch: Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the pasta when you serve it for a burst of bright flavor. You can also squeeze the lemon juice directly into the pasta sauce just before serving to keep things simple, or garnish this pasta with some fresh lemon zest!
Variations and Substitutions
This recipe is fairly forgiving: It's easy to customize with whatever you have on hand! A few of our favorite riffs:
- Add extra veggies. This pasta is great with spinach, kale, fennel, red bell peppers, or any other veggies you have on hand!
- Add capers or chopped kalamata olives to the sauce for an extra layer of briny flavor!
- For a creamy sauce, add ¼ cup of heavy cream (you can also use a few spoonfuls of our favorite cauliflower cream sauce!)
- Use ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme instead of the fresh thyme leaves if you like, or swap in your favorite fresh herbs: fresh parsley, basil, tarragon, or oregano all work well here!
- We like the mild, slightly sweet flavor of a shallot, but you can use white or yellow onion or sliced leeks in its place.
- Swap the garlic for a scoop of garlic scape pesto.
Why We Love Barramundi
Barramundi - sometimes called Asian sea bass - is a hearty whitefish with a mild, slightly sweet flavor and a buttery texture. (It's also not really a fishy fish, which makes it perfect for folks who aren't huge seafood fans!)
Barramundi's unique texture holds up well with just about any cooking method: we love it for grilled barramundi, quick fish fajitas, barramundi chowder, and beyond. (Check out our barramundi recipes collection for more of our favorite seafood recipes!)
This fish is delicate enough to easily flake into large pieces once cooked, but hearty enough to pick up a full bite with your fork without the fillet falling apart on you. (It's also packed with omega-3s!)
The Better Fish® is our preferred brand of barramundi. They're pioneers in the sustainable aquaculture (fish farming) movement: Their indoor recirculating tanks and water treatment made their barramundi the first ocean-farmed fish to receive a Best Choice rating from Monterey Bay's Seafood Watch program, and the company works with a variety of industry stakeholders to make the fish farming industry as a whole better for the fish, the environment, their workers, and their consumers.
PS - Learn more about barramundi from our interview with The Better Fish® CEO Josh Goldman in this podcast episode!
Step by Step Instructions
Cook the Pasta
Start by putting a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Once boiling, salt the water generously and add your pasta. Let the pasta cook while you prep your fish and start to build the sauce; drain the cooked pasta and set it aside until you're ready to serve.
Cut the Fish Into Pieces
Start by cutting your defrosted barramundi fillets into evenly-sized pieces (Image 1, above). This helps the fish cook more quickly, and small pieces make it easier to fold everything into the final pasta.
Build the Tomato Sauce
Heat a bit of oil in a large skillet (we recommend cast iron or a thick stainless steel option, as pictured here). Carefully add your whole cherry tomatoes (Image 2). Let the tomatoes cook, stirring only occasionally, until they're blistered and browned and have just begun to burst.
Then, carefully add your shallot and minced garlic, along with a pinch of red pepper flakes (Image 3). The pan will be HOT: Work quickly, be careful of spatters, and stir frequently as you sauté to prevent burning. Turn the heat down if you need to!
Once the shallot and garlic have softened, add a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper, followed by some white wine to deglaze the pan (Image 4).
Bring the wine and tomato mixture to a very low simmer over medium heat, stir in some fresh thyme leaves, then tuck the barramundi pieces into the sauce (Image 5, below).
Let the fish cook, spooning a bit of sauce over the top of each piece periodically, until the barramundi is bright white and flakes easily with a fork (Image 6).
Pro Tip: Keep an eye on the fish as it cooks, and be careful to keep the sauce at a low simmer (as opposed to a full boil, which can overcook the fish and make it tough).
Toss your drained, cooked pasta with a few spoonfuls of the white wine sauce. Transfer it to your serving plate(s), then top with the fish and tomatoes (and any remaining sauce!) Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the pasta.
Pro Tip: As with any recipe, it's important to taste as you go here! Taste the sauce before serving, and add salt as needed to help the flavors pop. Keep in mind that a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving will also brighten up the final dish!
Yes! This recipe works well with cod, salmon, or shrimp. You can also use mussels or clams in place of the barramundi, or top the pasta with some seared sea scallops if you prefer!
We love a relatively dry wine for this white wine pasta sauce, like a chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot gris. But as always, we recommend you cook with whatever type of wine you like to drink! A sweeter wine (like a riesling) will give you a sweeter sauce.
You can also use your favorite non-alcoholic white wine here (we've tested it with Giesen Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc - our favorite NA white wine variety - and with Fre, which is a bit sweeter and available at many grocery stores).
Yes - if you'd like to stretch this sauce a bit, you can add a bit of chicken broth (or vegetable broth), a knob of butter, or a splash of reserved pasta water. Keep in mind that this is a fairly thin sauce: A little goes a long way!
More Delicious Barramundi Recipes
For other tasty ideas, be sure to check out our full collection of barramundi recipes!
VIDEO: How to make fish pasta with blistered tomatoes
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A quick and easy fish pasta with our favorite sustainable barramundi, summer tomatoes, and white wine.
- ½ pound pasta (we used a large rigatoni)
- 12 ounces barramundi (about 2 fillets), thawed
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 heaping cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 small shallot, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup dry white wine (we used a chardonnay)
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (plus extra for garnish)
- 1 small lemon, cut into wedges
COOK THE PASTA & PREP THE FISH:
- Cook pasta in very salty water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta cooks, cut barramundi fillets into 2-inch square pieces. (It's ok if they're not perfect - we just want them to be as uniform as possible to ensure even cooking!)
MAKE THE WHITE WINE SAUCE:
- Heat olive oil in a large, sturdy skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers (you want it nice and hot for your tomatoes!) Add cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring only once or twice, for 3-4 minutes until skins have blistered and begun to burst. Note: Use caution when blistering tomatoes, as they can spatter unexpectedly.
- Add shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes to tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes, until shallot has softened and browned. Note: The pan will be HOT here - move quickly and stir frequently to prevent burning! If needed, turn down the heat.
- Add salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Add white wine to pan to deglaze. Use your spoon or spatula to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan - we want all that flavor!
- Add thyme and stir to combine. Bring sauce to a low simmer.
COOK THE BARRAMUNDI:
- Gently place your barramundi pieces into the white wine sauce. Spoon some of the warm sauce over the top of each piece of fish to help them cook evenly. Cook at a low simmer, continuing to spoon the sauce over the fish every few minutes, for 6-10 minutes. When barramundi is cooked, it will be a bright, opaque white color and flake easily with a fork.
Note: You can flip the barramundi midway through cooking if you don't want to keep spooning sauce over the fish; it will just flake apart more easily. You can also cover the skillet with an airtight lid to help the fish cook evenly if you prefer. Choose your own adventure!
PLATE AND SERVE:
- When fish has cooked, taste your sauce and add salt if necessary.
- Toss your cooked pasta with a few large spoonfuls of the white wine sauce to keep noodles from sticking together.
- Place pasta on a plate or serving dish. Use a spoon or spatula to place fish and tomatoes on top of pasta, then drizzle remaining sauce over pasta (you can toss everything together instead of plating if you like - the fish just won't hold its shape as well!)
- Serve fish pasta immediately with lemon wedges and extra thyme leaves for garnish (optional). Squeeze the juice from a few lemon wedges over the pasta when you're ready to eat.
Substitutions. Use white onion, yellow onion, or leeks in place of shallot. Substitute stock or parmesan broth for all or part of the white wine if you like. Use ¼ teaspoon dried thyme instead of fresh thyme. Substitute 2 cups roughly chopped tomato for the cherry tomatoes, or use ½ cup tomato sauce in their place for a smoother, more tomato-forward sauce. Use fresh basil, oregano, or parsley in place of thyme. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes instead of pasta, or omit the starch altogether and serve with a salad or fresh veggies.
Additions. Add your favorite veggies or legumes to this sauce (we like zucchini, chick peas, corn, fennel, or spinach!) and add a splash of heavy cream if you'd like a thicker sauce.
Red pepper flakes can vary in intensity over time and between brands. We tested this recipe with several red pepper flake varieties and noticed different spice levels with each - taste as you cook and feel free to add more if you'd like things spicier!
Where can I buy barramundi? Find The Better Fish® barramundi near you with their handy online store locator and at Whole Foods nationwide.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 388
- Sugar: 5 g
- Sodium: 67.1 mg
- Fat: 9.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 49.4 g
- Protein: 24.2 g
- Cholesterol: 34.9 mg
Keywords: seafood, sustainable, sea bass