Red Snapper with Provencal Tomato Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The red snapper brought in from about one hundred miles on either side of Destin, Florida, are the best-of-the-best—this is our fishin’ stomping ground. Snapper from these waters are known in the commercial fishing world as “the true American red snapper.” Here we’ve created a simple sautéed snapper with a classic tomato sauce, infused with the flavors of the Mediterranean. We often use canned tomatoes for this sauce, which are far better than out-of-season tomatoes, but obviously, if you can get ripe fresh tomatoes, use them. Fennel seeds have their own distinctive flavor, but combine them with orange zest and garlic and you’ll bring home the flavors of Provence.

NotesTo Drink: Condrieu, Guigal Côtes-du-Rhone blanc, Chateau Saint-Cosme

Cooking Methodsauteeing


Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCooking for a date, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationdiabetic, egg-free, gluten-free, healthy, kosher, lactose-free, low carb, low-fat, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free



Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, savory, spiced


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons diced reserved fennel stalks (see below)
  • 2 tablespoons diced leek
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • One 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 8 fingerling potatoes, cut lengthwise in half and cooked in boiling salted water until tender
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges, stalks reserved for sauce, fronds reserved for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • Four 6- to 8-ounce skin-on red snapper fillets (or substitute other firm White-fleshed fish, such as wild bass, halibut, tilefish, or cobia)
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Coarse sea salt


  1. To prepare the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When it’s warm, add the onion, fennel, leek, and garlic and-sauté over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the fennel seeds, tomatoes, sherry vinegar, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the tomatoes have broken down and the flavors have developed, about 45 minutes.

  2. Pass the mixture through a food mill or puree using a hand or regular blender or food processor. For an ultra-smooth puree, strain through a fine sieve, if desired. Return the sauce to the pan and season with salt and pepper; cover to keep warm.

  3. Cook the potatoes in a small pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain and cover to keep warm.

  4. Meanwhile, in a medium sauté pan just large enough to hold the fennel in one layer, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the fennel, along with a tablespoon of water, season with salt and pepper, and cook, turning once, until tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer the fennel to a bowl, add the fingerling potatoes, and season with a little salt and pepper. Toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and cover to keep warm.

  5. Heat a sauté pan just large enough to hold the snapper over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season the fish with salt and white pepper. Place skin side up in the pan and cook until the edges begin to turn opaque, about 4 minutes. Turn and continue cooking until just done (a knife inserted into the thickest part of the fish should reveal a pearly opaqueness), about 4 minutes more.

  6. Meanwhile, reheat the tomato sauce over medium heat. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil and the orange zest.

  7. Spoon the sauce onto individual serving plates. Top with the warm fennel and fingerling potatoes and then the fish. Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds, if desired.


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