A Cure for Liverishness: Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Salsa di Fegato di Rape

Spaghetti alla chitarra with monkfish liver sauce

I daresay there is a traditional dish from somewhere on the Italian peninsula that resembles this dish in some way, but in a radical, free-form departure from our blogging norms, we didn’t follow any kind of recipe here nor do the slightest bit of research in preparation. By way of an excuse, we didn’t really have time.

We’d been out for almost the entire day on yet another soul-destroying search for a new place to live, and, feeling rather bilious and irritable, were in need of emotional restoration. Returning to our soon-to-be former residence, we passed the Japanese-run fishmongers and noticed a small pot of monkfish liver just aching to be ours. Then, passing Russo’s our neighboring Italian specialty store, we bagged ourselves a box of their freshly-made spaghetti alla chitarra. Some light cream that needed finishing off, some chopped garlic, a splash of white wine, a sprinkle of chopped parsley, and fifteen minutes later, we were enjoying a the slightly bitter, oily maritime flavor of monkfish liver with a glass of chewy, slightly leathery Basilicatan aglianico. And if we weren’t completely emotionally restored afterward, we were hopeful enough to risk making another series of appointments to see terminally-dismal overpriced Brooklyn apartments the next day.

In the single beat of a butterfly’s wing causing a hurricane sense, I am convinced this dinner had a key influence on our house-hunting travails, as by sundown the following day we were the mightily relieved soon-to-be tenants of an actual house. In fact, it’s a pity monkfish liver is such poor material for an amulet, otherwise I feel certain I would be henceforth sporting an oily brown luck charm around my neck.

Spaghetti alla chitarra with monkfish liver sauce

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Monkfish Liver Cream Sauce (serves 2)


  • 4oz monkfish liver
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons light cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • kosher salt
  • big splash white wine
  • 1lb fresh spaghetti alla chitarra


  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Toss in the garlic and saute gently for two minutes
  3. Add wine. Allow to reduce by about half
  4. Toss in monkfish liver and mash a little with the back of your wooden spoon.
  5. Cook for about 1 minutes. Add cream and stir well.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Meanwhile, boil abundant salted water.
  8. Cook spaghetti for about 3 or 4 minutes, drain and add to sauce.
  9. Stir spaghetti into sauce and sprinkle with parsley.
  10. Serve immediately with large glasses of wine

21 thoughts on “A Cure for Liverishness: Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Salsa di Fegato di Rape

  1. With an actual backyard and space to grow your own veggies? It seems like not too long that you moved. What borough will be getting the wafts of goodies coming from your kitchen.

    Now on to the monk fish liver, though I never had it, I could just imagine the taste as you described — and I want some!

    1. @Joan – well remembered! We’re on the move again – this time, we hope, to somewhere slightly less impermanent. It’s a two-story house with a yard in which we plan to grow all manner of edibles in the fertile soils of Brooklyn, or at least give things a chance to go in the ground rather then be forever pot-bound.
      @Chris – wine is great healer. It’s certainly our self-medication of choice during stressful times!

  2. Note to self. Next time I try to find an apartment in BK. Eat a good meal first. It’s much more auspicious than the alternative.

    This looks fantastic! Congrats on the new home!

  3. I’ve never been a huge fan of ankimo, but seeing this makes me think I need to give it another chance. Also love the lineage-by-way-of-vague-recollection that spawned this dish. I just did something similar with an Indian dish over at my place:-)

  4. Hmm, seems my last reply went AWOL – sorry about that.
    I feel your pain of finding a new place to live. My husband and I have done it twice here in Mauritius and where we are now is absolutely ideal until we return to our home in SA.

    I have never eaten any kind of fish liver (well, not to my knowledge) and can’t wait to find some to try your recipe. If all else fails, I will have to give it a try with chicken liver. (Exactly the same but completely different).
    🙂 Mandy

  5. Good luck with the hunt, we have just finished ours after two years!

    Monkfish reminds me of something funny. Here is one of the most sought after and thus expensive fish. My wife likes it. We called it ‘rana pescatrice’ (literally ‘fishing frog’) or commonly ‘coda di rospo’ (this would be ‘toad’s tail). The latter the most used and the one we used. When we moved to UK my wife saw “cod” in the market and bought it thinking “cod” has to be “coda di rospo”. Quite disappointing 🙂

  6. Glad to know you didn’t let your standards drop even when dragging yourselves around a very hot city looking at over priced appartments – New house indeed – nice. Sounds like a pretty wonderful, inspired, sauce for my favourite pasta. Now what will you eat while unpacking all those boxes?

  7. Ooh, sounds fancy. I love the fishy-bitterness thing. Bottarga is the same.

    Congratulations on the new house! It’ll seem too small once the sprog comes, though, it’s the strangest thing. I grew up in tiny apartments and now even our 1800+ sq ft house seems way too small for our small family. On the plus side, we only mostly hang out in only one room anyway, so if we ever want to move to Tokyo we’ll be well prepared. 😀

  8. Good for you to find a house (although losing Russo’s mozzarella will be tough– if it’s the East Village Russos).
    Hopefully you will have a happy home in Brooklyn. I used to grow amazing tomatoes in my brownstone backyard. Start your compost pile right away!

    Great recipe but the talisman … not such a good idea!!

  9. I love Brooklyn, and wish my parents and grandparents didn’t sell their dumps in Wmsbrg, which is now actually “hip”.
    Monkfish liver not so much……….but you make everything look good!

    1. @Stacey – we’re wishing Amy’s grandparents did the same (not that we’d necessarily want to live in Canarsie even today though), and monkfish liver certainly isn’t for everyone, but it’s much more palatable that you might think – tastes a bit like a caviar in its brininess, but has that butteryness of well, um, butter too.

  10. Just made it, hate to say it but it was just awful. had a 8oz fresh liver and saw the recipe, but the taste was not good and had to throw it out.

    1. @Lordwolve: no worries, all feedback, as the saying goes, is good feedback. However, we want to find out more about your experience. Was it the recipe that you found fault with or did you just not like the taste of the dish? Was it definitely monkfish liver you used, or was it another kind of liver? All liver is an acquired taste, but fish liver can be especially assertive.

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