A recipe and tales about Sicilian swordfish

Foodie travelers coming to Sicily cannot miss two things: a visit to a historical market and a traditional Sicilian cooking class.

Catania historic fish market lays in the heart of the Baroque town, steps from the Duomo square leads you directly into the large courtyard where  swordfish are proudly exhibited, their heads and long swords which may reach even one-third of their length decorating the counters.
Fishmongers shout: “Talia, talia chi pisci friscu!” “Look at it, look at it, what a fresh fish!”

pesce spada1     pesce spada2

Swordfish have been fished widely since ancient times in the sea between Sicily and Calabria and for this it is a typical dish in the cuisine of this two regions.
Fishing is through the traditional boats used in this area and named spatare or feluche and requires a specific talent as performer of balancing arts: the helmsman and the catcher climbs up to the yard-arm which might be fifteen to twenty-five meters high. From the fore of the boat comes out a tight metal bridge named passerella where the harpooner deals a mortal blow to his pray. Swordfish fishing is part of local culture and tradition.

Listen to U piscipada , a moving and passionate song the Italian singer and actor Domenico Modugno dedicated to this fishing method https://youtu.be/qMDmIoWtwVw. He was not Sicilian but married to a woman native from the town of Messina.

Messina. This is the place in Sicily where the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian waters bump into each other: there, in the Streat of Messina,  the two seas blend and whirl round and round, streams are rapid and irregular and winds rush hard. In this stretch of lands and seas Homer sang of Scylla and Charybdis, beautiful nymphs changed into monsters.

So, dear foodies, the below recipe Involtini di pescespada is dedicated to you: enjoy the cooking and eat well!

Involtini di Pesce Spada (Swordfish rolls)

Ingredients (serves 4)

12 slices of swordfish (600-700g)
Extra virgin olive oil
100g grated mature cheese (pecorino if possible)
20g pine kernels
20g raisins
Lemon juice
1/2 a small chilli pepper chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
12 bay leaves
4 skewer sticks
Salt and pepper


The filling:

  • finely chop the onion and garlic and gently fry in olive oil until soft.
  • Add salt and pepper, the pine kernels, the raisins, the finely chopped parsley, the cheese and the chilli pepper and mix well until it is fairly solid (though not too dry).

The swordfish:

  • using a tenderiser, flatten the swordfish fillets and then add a spoonful of the filling and roll up.
  • Once ready roll in olive oil and bread crumbs and place 3 rolls onto each skewer, divided by a slice of onion and a bay leaf.

We would love to receive your comments and pictures of your final masterpiece.

Buon appetito!