Gurnard – what kind of name is that for a fish? Let’s make fish ragù with Gallinella

My last post was about making a meal with frozen fish.  This post is all about using fresh, caught fish to full ‘advantage’.   The fish in question is called ‘gallinella di mare’ in this part of Italy and translates as ‘tub gurnard’ in English.  I’d never heard of tub gurnard in English before and do not remember eating much gallinella whilst growing up in Italy.  But spurred as I was a few weeks ago, indeed almost driven, to just pop into a fishmonger’s and pick up whatever fish took my fancy that day, I opted for this strangely named creature of the sea.  My mother had given me a basket of her home made fettuccine just hours before and I thought I could cook up a wonderful fish stew (ragù) as the height of fresh egg-noodles accompaniment.

My first mistake was not following the fishmonger’s kind suggestion that he fillet the fish for me (Oh no no no no … quoth I to him …. I can do that at home, fish is very tactile and all that, and filleting fish kind be a very zen exercise).  The second mistake, or at least misunderstanding on my part, was to have blithely disregarded the cost of the fish.  The fishmonger handed over the gutted gallinella to me and smilingly conveyed the price: EU 42.  I almost did a double-take but meekly complied with the payment — after all, it wasn’t the fishmonger’s fault.

Hmmmm.  I got home and took more than just one photo of Mr Fish the Tub Gurnard cum Gallinella.  Take a look.

On a silver platter …

And here were my mother’s fettuccine …

She just has a way with the fresh pasta … Oh I am so envious ….

“You’d better taste good!” I said out aloud.   Then I proceeded to fillet it and cursed my hubris.  I had never dealt with these gurnards before and ‘tough’ doesn’t begin to describe how frightfully medieval-like-armoured-mail their whole demeanor is. I actually cut myself at one point and had to put my bleeding finger under running water and then bandage myself up before carrying on.  This was not boding well.  Why oh Why? Why why why?  Why had  I done it? What what WHAT had induced me to want to buy that silly fish?  Sigh.

And then, when I looked at the amount of flesh I managed to extract from the whole fish, I felt even worse!  There really didn’t seem to be much to eat for 42 euros!  Take a look!

Lovely colour, however, and definitely fresh fresh fresh.   And then the magic of pasta kicked in, and I reconnected to an atavistic will to make the most of what lay before me.  After all that fretting over the filleting, I was damned if I wasn’t going to come up with a fantastic ragù for my mother’s superb home-made fettuccine.  Hands on hips, hah!

For those of you who are really interested in cooking, read on.  For those of you who are fond of me and are my friends but don’t necessarily want to cook …. go straight to the end of this post!


Whatever I wasn’t able to use for the ragù, I used to make the stock.

I added water, some herbs, onion, a tiny amount of lemon zest, some pepper corns and … sorry, can’t remember.  Probably a bit of wine too. Oh yes, and a bay leaf.   Bay leaves are wonderful for stocks.


Can you see two cast-iron saucepans?  I sliced a big wedge of garlic from a whole head of garlic, into one slice, and put it into one of the saucepans together with a a healthy helping of butter — one large tablespoon’s worth.

I switched on the heat and added a long shaped pepper corn … look at the butter foaming gently as it cooks both the garlic and the pepper.

Add the peas …

Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon full of sugar …

And since the fish stock has been bubbling for a while now, add a little bit of that too.  After all, this is going to be a fish-based ragù!  Give it a good stir and set aside.


In another cast-iron saucepan, sauté some sliced up garlic with a few coriander seeds and plenty of olive oil, over a gentle heat.

Here are some cut up cherry tomatoes …

Add them to the sauté of garlic and coriander seeds and, again, cook over a gentle heat.

Season with salt …. and a pinch of sugar.

Add a small ladle-full of the simmering fish stock too.

Owing to the fact that I was short of fresh tomatoes, I decided to add a good squirt of concentrated tomato  purée, straight out of a tube.  Life saver …

As the tomato sauce was drying up, I added yet more fish stock …

Yes … now we are getting somewhere!  I wish I could convey the scent at this point of the cooking … it was very, very engrossing.

Add the fish stock, a little at a time and as necessary.

Glossy and simmering … taste and make sure the seasoning is right.


Time to add the previously cooked peas … and give everything a good stir.

Looking gorgeous, smelling divine.  I switched off the heat.

At this point … it was time to get the pasta cooking.

Once the fettuccine were cooked, I drained them and put them straight into the casserole with the fish ragù in it, having turned the heat on again.

The drained fettuccine went straight into the ragù casserole …

I added the last dregs of the fish stock, filtering it ….

And then put the lid on the casserole to get the heat going so all the ingredients would meld together nicely … if only for a few minutes.


I took the lid off and stirred the fettuccine …

In the servng dish …

A close-up ….

There was enough fettuccine and fish ragù to serve six hungry people … which in terms of arithmetics comes to Eu 7 per person/per serving for the fish alone.  Expensive? yes.  Worth it? Even more …

About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
This entry was posted in Fish and seafood, italian home food, Primi (first courses - usually a pasta or risotto), Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Gurnard – what kind of name is that for a fish? Let’s make fish ragù with Gallinella

  1. Ioana says:

    You are so amazing!! I can’t tell you how happy I am to have met you and discovered your blog. Your posts, photos and recipes get me so excited about cooking. Thank you thank you thank you! 🙂

  2. Looks delicious, Jo, and I’m glad with the fish at that price it all worked out so well in the end!

  3. josephine says:

    Thank you for the encouragement — but next time I am going to make sure the fishmonger fillets it for me!!!

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