The Sicilian “agghiotta” swordfish is a succulent second course of the Sicilian tradition, typical of Messina. Tender slices of swordfish accompanied by a sauce based on tomato, olives, capers, pine nuts and raisins. The original recipe involves smearing and frying swordfish, but I preferred to simply cook it in the oven with the sauce.


Choosing the Steaks

This is one area where I deviate from Italian culinary customs, where the swordfish is frequently cut into considerably thinner steaks that are less than an inch in thickness, at least when I’ve seen it. A swordfish steak is comparable to other steaks in my opinion. When you overcook it, it dries out, so you want to choose a piece that is thick enough to prevent drying out and becoming chalky over the time it takes to get a decent sear on it. That entails a steak of swordfish that is at least 1.5 inches thick.


The swordfish is served alongside flavorful tomato sauce. While every cook has their own unique way of making this sauce, the majority of recipes include olive oil, fresh tomatoes, garlic or onion, briny olives, and salty capers. In certain recipes, pine nuts, raisins, or both are added. With canned tomatoes, you may still create this dish without much difficulty in the winter.


Cooking the Swordfish

I employ a method of cooking known as unilateral cooking, in which an item of food is cooked primarily or totally on just one side. It can be especially useful with many types of fish because the meat can become done before the surface has developed a pleasing hue. The steaks’ color is also improved with a flour coating.


Preparing the Sauce


You make the sauce in the same skillet that you cooked the fish in. I tried making it with both fresh and canned tomatoes and preferred the fresh tomatoes in this situation. I also experimented with different additions, making the sauce with or without garlic and onion, as well as with and without pine nuts and raisins. In Sicilian savoury dishes like caponata and spaghetti con le sarde, raisins are a popular ingredient. They frequently contribute to the agrodolce (“sweet-sour”) flavour that is so prevalent in Southern Italian cuisine. Although I left raisins out of the final recipe ( I didn’t want the sauce to have a very strong sweet-sour flavour) instead I relied on the tomatoes and the sweet sautéed onions to add that fruity touch.

I’d adv




  • 910g swordfish steaks, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick, divided into four portions
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 5 tablespoons (75ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 680g small tomatoes, quartered, or one 780g can whole peeled tomatoes with juices, tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed of excess salt
  • ½ cup pitted mild green olives, such as Castelvetrano, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
  • Red wine vinegar and/or granulated sugar, to taste




  1. Season the swordfish with salt and pepper all over. Make an even layer of flour on a plate. Dredge the swordfish steaks in flour, one piece at a time, shaking out any extra, and placing on a dish.
  2. 2 tablespoons (30ml) of oil should be heated to shimmering in a sizable 12-inch stainless-steel frying pan. Swordfish steaks should be added and cooked for about 5 minutes, turning them over halfway through. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the swordfish steaks; keep in mind that it’s crucial to achieve good color on at least one side, which is why the first side needs more time to cook. Flip the swordfish steaks and continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center reads 130°F (54°C) for medium, 135°F (57°C) for medium-well, or 140 to 145°F (60 to 63°C) for well-don Replacing the swordfish on the dish.
  3. Return the skillet to medium-high heat after cleaning. Add the onion and the remaining 3 tablespoons (45ml) oil to the skillet. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring and scraping the pan’s bottom as necessary until the onion has softened but not browned. Cook the tomatoes, capers, and olives while stirring for about five minutes, or until the tomatoes have broken down and the liquid has thickened. Add salt to taste. Depending on the flavor of the tomatoes you’re using and how far you want to take the sauce’s agrodolce (“sweet-sour”) characteristics, you may want to add 1 or 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar and a pinch or two of sugar to balance the sauce’s flavor.
  4. Heat should be turned down to medium. After adding the pine nuts and parsley, return the swordfish to the pan, nestling it into the sauce, and cook until it is thoroughly heated. Serve the dish hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold.

By Elijah Hughes

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