Pesce arrosto alla mantovana

Roast Fish with Vegetables from Mantua

Mantua is a charming town in Lombardy known for its superb Ducal Palace and paintings by Mantegna. While the Lombards are not big fish eaters, they do enjoy sea bass and freshwater fish such as pike, carp, and perch. I prepared this recipe both with sea bass and cod, and the dish was lovely and delicate. Salmon is a bit more assertive in flavor, but would work well, too.

Ingredients

  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • pounds sea bass, cod, or salmon, in thick steaks or fillets
  • 1 lemon, sliced paper-thin and each slice quartered
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • inch thick or peeled, parboiled, and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 zucchini, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ½ pound fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, or as needed

Method

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a baking dish just large enough to hold the fish in a single layer.

In a small bowl, combine the saffron and hot water and set aside to steep for 15 minutes.

Place the fish in the prepared dish. Tuck the lemon pieces and onion, potato, zucchini, and mushroom slices in and around the fish pieces. Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon salt and some pepper and drizzle with the ½ cup olive oil, adding more if needed to coat all of the ingredients liberally. Add the saffron infusion and then add water to a depth of about ¼ inch. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Roast the fish and vegetables for about 45 minutes. Uncover and continue to roast until the fish is opaque when a knife tip is inserted in the center, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Serve at once.

Wine

Pour a Soave or Sauvignon Blanc from the Veneto. For a more festive occasion, try a sparkling wine from Lombardy, such as a Franciacorta from Bellavista, Cavalleri, or Ca’ del Bosco.