In zimino is a style of cooking fish and squid with hot peppers and garlic, with variations that include tomatoes or greens or anchovies. Although Claudia Roden describes it as a Sephardic tomato and anchovy sauce for fried fish, it is more often associated with Tuscany and seems to have an old connection with fast or Lenten days. An even bigger mystery than the dish’s origin is the meaning of zimino. One theory is that it derives from the Arab word zamin, which denotes a sauce of green herbs. Perhaps it’s dialect for tegamino, a shallow frying pan.
What we do know is that the dish is a classic for good reason. The spiciness of peppers and garlic combines well with the sweetness of seafood and the textural contrast of greens. We usually prepare this as a seafood sauce for pasta, but it could stand alone as a sauté or pan ragout. On occasion we add tomato sauce and sometimes just throw in a handful of diced fresh tomatoes. If your budget doesn’t allow for shellfish and if you don’t feel like cleaning squid, just add chopped anchovy to the garlic, hot pepper, and greens for a tasty pasta. Tomatoes are optional.