Swordfish Palermitana (Pesce Spada alla Palermitana)


Breadcrumbs are often used in Sicilian cuisine to provide texture to antipasti such as sarde beccafico, primi piatti such as pasta with anchovies and broccoli, and secondi such as cotoletta alla palermitana. The latter dish inspired me to prepare swordfish in much the same way. To make a lighter crust, extra virgin olive oil is used to make the breadcrumbs stick to the fish. The breadcrumbs are flavored with umami bombs such as anchovies, olives, capers, and sundried tomaties, and brightened up with parsley. The breaded fish is then cooked in the oven without any additional oil to keep things light.

Swordish is often overcooked and dry. When you cook the fish just right, you will have moist tender meaty fish with a crunchy flavorful crust. This is a delicious dish that I loved and will definitely make again. Oh and did I mention that it is really quick and easy to make?

The possibilities for variations are endless. You could for instance use oregano or lemon zest in the crust as well. Or even grated pecorino cheese if you are really daring. Here’s what I did this time around.



For 2 servings

2 swordfish steaks

two handfuls of dried breadcrumbs (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 Tbsp minced sundried tomatoes

1/2 Tbsp minced capers (rinsed and dried, preferably salted capers)

1 Tbsp minced black olives

1 clove garlic, minced

3 anchovy fillets, minced

1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper



Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Remove the skin from the swordish and most of the red bloody meat, which has an unpleasant fishy bitter flavor. Season the swordish steaks with salt on both sides.


Put two handfuls of dried breadcrumbs on a plate with 1/2 Tbsp minced sundried tomatoes, 1/2 Tbsp minced capers, 1 Tbsp minced black olives, 1 clove garlic, minced, 3 anchovy fillets, minced, and 1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley…


…and stir to mix until homogeneous.


Coat the swordfish steaks with extra virgin olive oil on one side.


Press the swordfish steak on the breadcrumb mixture with the oil side down. Coat the top side with extra virgin olive oil as well, and flip the swordfish to coat the other as well. Press the breadcrumb mixture on the swordfish. Repeat with the other swordfish steak.


Arrange the breaded swordfish steaks on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.


If you have an instant-read thermometer with a probe, insert the probe into one of the swordfish steaks such that the tip is in the center.

Bake the swordfish in the oven at 200°C/400°F for about 10 minutes.


If you are using a thermometer, the fish is done as soon as the core temperature reaches 50°C/122°F. Using a thermometer is the best way to ensure that you don’t overcook the swordfish.


Serve at once on preheated plates.

Wine pairing

This is great with many full-bodied dry Italian whites from the South, but a Sicilian would of course be most appropriate. A Fiano such as Cometa from Planeta would be an excellent choice.



Risotto with peas and mint takes a classic combination and turns it into a wonderful risotto.


11 thoughts on “Swordfish Palermitana (Pesce Spada alla Palermitana)

  1. Yum! In love with the idea of using ingredients like capers, olives, anchovies and sundried tomatoes in the breadcrumb mixture. This swordfish looks delicious! Also love the tip about using a instaread thermometer to make sure you don’t over cook the fish. My BIGGEST pet peeve is when you go to a really nice restaurant and the over cook the fish.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some recipes from favourite blogs get put into the ‘to do’ file and seem to remain at the bottom of the pile . . . this one will go right to the top: I don’t bake fish fillets nearly often enough and love and use the flavourings every day. Am certain you make your own breadcrumbs but I wonder how panko would do?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are so right about not overcooking swordfish. I love it but rarely order it when out as it usually arrives overdone. The resulting ‘lesson for the chef’ is never pretty and can ruin an evening.

    Liked by 1 person

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