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Sockeye Salmon Bolognese


This recipe is one I have pondered for some time. Bolognese is traditionally a recipe using some kind of ground or chopped meat in a tomato based sauce. It is Italian in origin with herbs like basil and oregano with garlic, onion and sometimes carrot with plenty of tomatoes. There are vegetarian recipes calling for lentils or shell beans and some that require mushrooms or tofu as a meat substitute. It never occurred to me to use fish to make a bolognese until I ran across a menu featuring just that. The idea of clams in a red sauce or in Manhattan style clam chowder seems perfectly reasonable. Fish with tomatoes in a stew such as cioppino appears a natural pairing.

Sockeye salmon, I would suggest, for its somewhat more robust flavor, wild salmon is more flavorful than farm raised. Ground salmon, more specifically ground wild Sockeye salmon, may not be readily available. That said your fish monger may grind it for you and, if not and you don’t have a meat grinder, you can chop the salmon with a chef’s knife or Chinese cleaver. If wild Sockeye is unavailable any species of salmon, wild or farm raised is suitable, just be sure to remove any bones. Though this recipe is not strictly traditional, it makes a very tasty dish.

Serves four


  • 1 pound ground Sockeye salmon

  • 2 cups diced Spanish onion

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

  • 1 cup tomato purée

  • 1/2 cup white wine

  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 teaspoon dry basil

  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


  • heat a heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat

  • pour the olive oil into the pan along with the diced onion and cook for four to five minutes until the onion has softened, but before it has taken on any color

  • add in the garlic and cook for about one minute longer

  • add the salmon to the pan and stir to distribute evenly with the onion, at which point the salmon will already be nearly cooked

  • deglaze the pan with the wine and then add in the crushed tomato and the tomato purée

  • mix in the basil, bay leaves, oregano, parsley, salt, black and red pepper

  • bring to modest boil and stir in the heavy cream

  • lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally

  • remove the bay leaves before service

For Service:

  • while the sauce is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it well and cook one pound of your favorite pasta al dente. I prefer a long pasta with a wider profile such as tagliatelle or pappardelle, but stick pasta like penne works nicely too.

  • serve on warm plates with grated cheese. I know, don’t serve cheese with fish, but I promise you this works

  • a nice tossed salad and crusty garlic bread go nicely with this meal

If you’ve never tried anything like this before, I think that you’re in for a surprising treat. It is hard to tell that this is made with salmon and not meat. It is a great recipe to add to a pescatarian diet. I was delighted and maybe you will be. Enjoy!