Involtini di Pesce Spada

Sicilian Swordfish Rolls

Involtini di pesce spada are a specialty of the Hostaria del Vicolo in Sciaccia, in southern Sicily. The use of pine nuts and currants in the recipe can be ascribed to the arrival of the Arabs on the island in the ninth century. The swordfish rolls can be baked or grilled, and may be served warm or at room temperature. The accompanying sauce, called salmoriglio, is a popular dressing for fish from Naples south through Sicily. The same filling is used to stuff sardines in another Sicilian classic, sarde a beccafico, a favorite of the residents of Palermo. A beccafico is a tiny bird that eats figs while the fruits are still on the tree. The sardine dish was given this name because the fish rolls recall the little, overstuffed birds. Like the swordfish rolls, they are baked with bay leaves.

Ingredients

  • 12 slices swordfish, each about ¼ inch thick (about 2 pounds total)
  • Salt

Filling

  • About cups diced coarse country bread (crusts removed)
  • 9 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
  • ¼ cup dried currants, plumped in hot water and drained
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 4 to 6 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

Salmoriglio Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • ¼ cup virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup mild olive oil

Method

Place each slice of swordfish between 2 sheets of lightly oiled parchment paper or plastic wrap, and pound very gently to uniform thinness. Each slice should be about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide. Trim as necessary. Any odd fragments of swordfish can be incorporated into the filling. Peel off the top sheet of parchment or plastic and sprinkle the fish with salt. Refrigerate until needed.

To make the filling, first make bread crumbs: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pulse the bread cubes in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet. Drizzle evenly with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and measure out cup of the crumbs. Reserve any leftover crumbs for another use. Raise the oven temperature to 400°F.

To make the filling, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small sauté pan and cook the onion (and any fish remnants) until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cup bread crumbs, anchovy (if using), currants, pine nuts, parsley, and half each of the lemon juice and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool.

Oil a 9-by-12-inch baking dish. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling on each swordfish slice and roll up. Secure with a toothpick or kitchen string. Arrange the swordfish rolls side by side in the baking dish, interspersing the bay leaves between the rolls. Sprinkle with the oregano. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining lemon and orange juices.

Bake until the fish is cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. While the swordfish rolls are baking, make the sauce: Combine the oregano and garlic in a mortar. Grind with a pestle and gradually add the virgin olive oil to make a paste. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parsley and mix well. Gradually beat in the mild olive oil. (You can also make this sauce in a blender.) Transfer the swordfish rolls to a platter and serve warm or at room temperature drizzled with the sauce.