Monkfish Pasta: Massa de Tamboril

Portugal’s coastal cuisine is much more well known for its array of grilled seafood, seafood stews, and rice dishes. However, there are more than a few standout pasta dishes that are definitely worth trying too. In this recipe we’re taking a look at Massa de Tamboril, or Monkfish Pasta. It’s a surprisingly simple dish, with just a few key ingredients, yet it is completely delicious. The star of the dish is of course the monkfish, or Tamboril as it’s called in Portugal. Although often looked over, tamboril has an incredible taste and sophisticated texture, and I guarantee you will love this Portuguese recipe as much as I do! 

Monkfish – Tamboril in Portugal

Monkfish which is also referred to as Frog fish and, even sea-devil, are a group of fish of the genus Lophius. In Portuguese, Tamboril is the name given to the species Lophius piscatorius, and you’ll find it at most fish counters and fish markets. Why frog fish, and sea devil? Well one look at its wide flat head, and gaping mouth filled to the brim with teeth will tell you how it got that name! However, hidden inside this not so pretty fish, is a sweet and firm lobster like meat. In some parts of the world, Tamboril are sometimes even called poor man’s lobster. Due to its firm texture, it’s widely used across Portugal in a variety of dishes, including stews (caldeirada), and aromatic rice dishes (arroz de marisco, or arroz de tamboril).

Monkfish Pasta - Massa de Tamboril Recipe

The recipe assumes you’ve already prepared your monkfish. At most markets and fish counters in Portugal, you can purchase a whole loin of monkfish prepared. In general, you’ll purchase the whole monkfish and you can choose to keep the whole of it, or just the loin, which the fish monger will cut and skin for you. The rest of the monkfish is great for stocks and stews, but it’s not necessary to keep! Alternatively you can use frozen monkfish loin which is available in the frozen fish section of most supermarkets.

The Pasta – Rigatoni

The general rule of thumb when cooking pasta dishes, is that for chunky sauces with vegetables or meat, then a larger pasta is chosen. In this case, our large pieces of monkfish, and the light sauce is perfect for some large Rigatoni. However, you can of course choose your own pasta!

Monk-fish Pasta

Monkfish Pasta Recipe

We just love adding a handful of fresh peeled prawns to the recipe while the monkfish is frying, however these are completely optional!

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • 200g Short pasta
  • 250g Monkfish loin – cut into large cubes
  • 250g Shrimp – cleaned and peeled
  • 200g fresh tomatoes – roughly chopped
  • Half a cup of white wine
  • 1 large onion – diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic – minced
  • 1tbsp Olive Oil
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper


1 Place a large frying pan over medium heat, once hot, add the diced onion and garlic. Fry it for a couple of minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes.

2. In a separate pot, boil enough water for your pasta as per instructions. Once the water is boiling, add salt and cook your pasta.

3. Once your tomatoes begin to fry and reduce, add the pieces of chopped tamboril, and peeled shrimp. Fry for around 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful not to break the fish.

4. Add the white wine and allow the sauce to reduce.

5. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, but set aside one cup of pasta water – it’s full of starch and is a great sauce thickener if needed!

6. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir! Add a little pasta water, make sure to coat the pasta evenly!

7. Serve the pasta with fresh parsley, and some fresh black pepper!

Massa de Tamboril

I hope you enjoyed this classic monkfish pasta recipe, stick around because I have a few more traditional seafood recipes from Portugal on the way!

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