Veracruz Tomato Sauce for Fish

Maricel Presilla

Cucharamama and Zafra - Hoboken, NJ

"From the day in the 16th century on which Hernán Cortés landed near what is today Veracruz, the cuisine of this Mexican state has been influenced by Spain. Trade between New Spain and the mother country was done through the fleet system—the ships first visited Havana and then Veracruz before setting sail for the port of Cádiz in Andalusia, Spain.
Perfectly at home (except for the heat of the pickled jalapeño, revealing its Mexican origin) in Andalusia and Havana, this tangy, light tomato sauce is traditionally spooned over red snapper (huachinango) and snook (róbalo, a brackish-water fish), the two most popular fishes of Veracruz."—JBF Award winner Maricel Presilla

Recipes from Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla. Copyright © 2012 by Maricel E. Presilla. Reprinted with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 12 medium plum tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cored and finely chopped, or canned tomatoes with some juice
  • 1/4 cup capers in brine, drained, or salt-packed capers, rinsed
  • 25 pimiento-stuffed olives, left whole or halved crosswise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 3 pickled jalapeños, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water



Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) heavy skillet or sauté pan. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients, lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook at a lively simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. The sauce should have a pleasant tang and a delicate aroma.
Covered tightly and refrigerated, this sauce will keep well for 1 week.
To serve: heat the sauce in a skillet until warm. Add fish steaks, shrimp, or shredded reconstituted salt cod. Cook very briefly, just 3 to 5 minutes.


4 cups