Union Square Cafe’s Spaghetti with Flaked Cod, Rapini, and Garlic

April 15, 2011 (Last Updated: March 31, 2020)
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Last week, I discussed my love for a timeless New York City restaurant called the Union Square Cafe. Through bouts of culinary lust, I discussed the incredible first course I dined upon during my most recent visit, the Spaghettini with Flaked Cod. Apparently, it’s a fan favorite. I’m a fan. It’s my favorite. Luckily, the fabulous folks over at USC did not require my soul in exchange for the recipe (as I had offered).

They happily emailed it to me, an early birthday present indeed!! I have made some slight changes to the original recipe, such as reducing the amount of bread (I found the original 8 slices in the recipe made way more bread crumbs than I needed) and also rubbing said bread with fresh garlic, to amplify the garlic flavor even further. LOVE GARLIC. After a few slight tweaks, I’m happy to share this incredible recipe with all of you. Thanks again to the Union Square Cafe for not only rocking and turning me onto this incredible dish, but for sharing the recipe.

spaghetti with flaked cod

Spaghetti with Flaked Cod, Rapini, and Garlic

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 to 6 servings
Calories 567 kcal


  • 4 (1/2-inch thick) slices leftover rustic bread (such as Pugliese)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole, plus 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 bunch spring rapini (broccoli rabe) rinsed under cold water
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 oz cod or halibut skin and bones removed, uniformly cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lb artisanal spaghetti, spaghettini, or capellini (such as Rustichella d’Abruzzo, Latini, or Pasitificio di Setaro)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Juice from 1/4 lemon


  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Prepare the breadcrumbs: Place the bread slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and place the sheet in the oven. Toast the bread until golden brown and dry, rotating the tray so the bread toasts evenly, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately rub the toasts with the whole clove of garlic. Allow to cool. Process the bread in a food processor until the crumbs are broken down to the size of grains of rice. Set aside.
  • Slice rapini cross-wise about 1/2-inch wide beginning at the top of the bunch, and then thinner as you near the middle where there are more stems. Discard the thick stems at the bottom, or save them to cook in soup. Set the cut rapini aside.
  • Bring 1 gallon water to a boil and season with 1 tablespoon kosher salt.
  • Season the fish pieces with the remaining salt and set aside.
  • In a very large sauté pan, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil with the chopped garlic. Place the pan over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the garlic is light golden brown. Add the seasoned fish and chili flakes, and continue to stir for about 20 seconds. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Turn the fish pieces and lower the flame, bringing the ingredients to an easy simmer. Cook for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fish to a plate. They will be just cooked through and still quite moist.
  • Continue to gently simmer the wine broth for another 3 minutes, or until reduced by one-third. Turn off the heat.
  • Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente. Just before draining the pasta, add 1/4 cup pasta cooking water to the wine broth. Drain the pasta well and immediately add to the wine broth.
  • Place the pan back on medium-high heat. When the broth comes to a boil, add the sliced rapini, cooked fish, and parsley. Lower the heat and toss everything together gently, letting the rapini wilt and the fish flake apart on its own. Taste a strand of pasta to check the seasoning for salt.
  • Add the lemon juice and remaining olive oil and toss. The pasta should be very moist, but not too brothy. Immediately transfer the pasta to a large platter or bowl and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Enjoy!

Notes & Nutrition

Adapted from Chef Carmen Quagliata of the Union Square Cafe
Servings 6.0 * calories 567 * Total Fat 21 g * Saturated Fat 3 g * Monounsaturated Fat 7 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 9 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 23 mg * Sodium 1030 mg * Potassium 327 mg * Total Carbohydrate 71 g * Dietary Fiber 5 g * Sugars 2 g * Protein 21 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*

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