Loretta Sebastiani

Loretta Sebastiani
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Ghiotta swordfish
( Pesce spada alla ghiotta )

Authentic recipe from Sicily

Ghiotta swordfish (U piscispata a gghiotta in Sicilian) is a typical recipe of Sicily (Messina) that spread in Calabria too (Reggio Calabria) over time. Here is my version of this dish. I generally make some variations as regards the most common recipe which provides for these steps: frying floured swordfish slices in abundant olive oil, then cooking tomato sauce in the same oil and baking the fish in this sauce. My recipe is more digestible. Read below to learn more. I add potatoes too.

difficulty: easy

time: 1 h 15 minutes

calories: 434 (kCal)

Ingredients / Serves 6

  • 900g (2 pounds) swordfish in 6 slices
  • 70g (2 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 fresh young onions
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 tablespoons capers in vinegar
  • 20g (2/3 ounce - 2 tablespoons) raisins
  • 20g (2/3 ounce - 2 1/2 tablespoons) pine nuts
  • 1 400g (14 ounces) can peeled tomatoes
  • 700g (1 1/2 pound) potatoes
  • 60g (2.1 ounces - 1/3 cup) green olives, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Red chili pepper, if liked
  • Salt
  • Pepper, if liked
easy recipe
preparation: 30 minutes
cooking: 45 minutes
totale: 1 h 15 minutes
How many calories in a serving?
Calories: 434 (kcal) 22 % - 1816 (kJ)
Protein: 32.3 (g) 65 % GDA
Total fat: 19.5 (g) 28 % GDA
Total carbohydrate: 32.4 (g) 12 % GDA
Sugars: 6.5 (g) 8 % GDA

Download free PDF version (141 download).

Ghiotta swordfish recipe

Preparation and cooking

  • - Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
  • - Meanwhile prepare swordfish.
    Line two baking sheets with waxed paper.
    Grease waxed paper with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
    Remove skin from every fish slice.
    Dip swordfish slices into flour.
    Arrange all fish slices in your baking sheets.
    Bake for about 15 minutes, turning all slices at least once halfway through cooking.
    Remove your fish from the oven and put aside.
  • - Prepare tomato sauce.
    Soak raisins in warm water for about 30 minutes.
    Chop onions and shallot.
    Clean and chop celery stalk.
    Put chopped onion, shallot and celery in a non-stick frying pan together with the remaining olive oil.
    Fry slightly on very low heat, stirring frequently.
    Meanwhile remove peeled tomatoes from the can and crush them on a plate with a fork.
    Peel potatoes and cut into chunks.
    Add tomatoes too and stir.
    At this point you can add capers, olives, well squeezed raisins, pine nuts and red chili pepper.
    Stir and bring to a boil again.
    Now add potatoes too.
    Stir to flavor and pour in a couple of ladle of hot water.
    Season to taste with salt and pepper (if liked) and continue cooking for about 30 minutes.
    Add other hot water only if necessary.
    Your sauce must be neither too reduced nor too liquid.
  • - Preaheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
  • - The last step.
    Spoon some tomato sauce in the bottom of two baking pans.
    Arrange your swordfish slices and spoon the remaining sauce on the top.
    Bake for about 15 minutes.

Just before serving

  • - Distribute on individual plates and serve swordfish still hot.



  • - I add potatoes to the classical recipe but you can avoid them.
  • - The most common recipe provides for frying swordfish slices in plenty of olive oil, after being floured. At this point fish is removed from the pan and in the same pot tomato sauce is prepared. This dish will definitely be more tasty but I assure you that it is also hard to digest. That's why I replaced the first phase with baking. A small change that makes me and my guests enjoy it more. There are no other significant differences in the rest of the recipe.
  • - But there are also other different versions and it's right to mention them.
    For example some people have the habit of spreading a mixture of bread crumbs soaked in water, olives, capers, powdered red chili pepper and salt over the slices of fish which are then rolled up and baked in tomato sauce. So you do not fry swordfish.
  • - In ghiotta swordfish most people also use to fry garlic together with onion. I prefer to avoid it because, if the fish is fresh, I want to taste its full flavor.
    Any way here is garlic dose for garliclovers: 2 cloves.
  • - This swordfish recipe can be prepared in advance. You can arrange fish slices in baking pans, drizzled of sauce and potatoes. Bake just before serving.
    This aspect makes ghiotta swordfish very practical when you invite friends or relatives and in formal dinner parties too.
  • - I wish to make a clarification on the amount of pine nuts, olives and raisins. I generally use a small amount of them compared to the recipes on Internet for two main reasons. You can't be sure that everyone really likes the contrast between sweet and salty-spicy flavors in this recipe, so I prefer not to put it too much in evidence. Besides pine nuts and raisins are very rich in calories.

Menu planning

  • - Swordfish is one of the choicest sea fish when you have guests. It looks very good. It has no thorns and is very tasty. However, remember to supply from your fishmonger for it must be really fresh.
  • - This dish serves 6 in your family menu and even the double of persons if served in a full fish menu according to the Italian style.
  • - Here's an Italian menu idea of mine I often prepare for my guests who love seafood.
    A little expensive but successful :))
    Starter: smoked salmon, tuna in brine, marinated octopus accompanied by quail eggs, halved and garnished with mayonnaise on top, and Russian salad. After this cold assorted antipasto platter I serve a hot starter: baked scallops.
    First dish: spaghetti with seafood.
    Second dish: the swordfish recipe of this page.
    Dessert: a tart fruit is the best choice according to me. No cream for the presence of fish. Consult our cake and dessert index, you'll surely find the recipe you prefer depending on the season too.

Healthy eating

  • - If chosen for your family menu, ghiotta swordfish is one-plate meal.
    Those who are still hungry can add a slightly-seasoned green salad or raw seasonal vegetables to munch on.
  • - If you follow a correct diet, I remember you to avoid bread. There are potatoes in this dish!
  • - If you want to change the doses for a different number of people, remember fish serving is 150g (5 1/3 ounces).
  • - Fiber per serving: 3.3 grams


What's the right wine for " Ghiotta swordfish "?

My husband and I match Cirò Bianco (wine from Calabria) to this ghiotta swordfish.

A little history

The term ghiotta or agghiotta or gghiotta refers to a typical Sicilian preparation. The main ingredient is fish. It may be fresh or salty (swordfish, tuna, stockfish ...). It is usually cut into pieces and then cooked in tomato sauce with the addition of onion, celery, olives and capers. But Sicilian cuisine was also influenced by the long Arab domination, so different variations appeared over time, especially the addition of raisins that gives that typical contrast of flavors: sweet and salty-spicy. So this swordfish recipe was born in Sicily from where it spread in the neighboring regions. I have to tell you in Sicily there is another famous ghiotta recipe made with salty or fresh tuna and typical of Siracusa. At the end I wish to remember you stockfish can be cooked in the agghiotta way too. It is a recipe from Reggio Calabria.
In Calabria and Sicily (Italian regions) swordfish is very popular and also gives rise to festivals in July and August. Its fishing, especially in the Strait of Messina, is a source of much debate. Someone defines it folklore but in some cases it becomes a veritable illegal action when using spadare. Spadare are drift-nets. They are not allowed by UN and other agencies for they capture not only swordfish but sperm whales, dolphins and other protected species too.
If you are interested in the topic, you can see this video by Greenpeace, made several years ago in Sardinia. This video is not recent but I remember you that spadare have reappeared in 2011 proposing the protection of the environment in a very direct and urgent way.