From May to August each year, the turbulent waters between Sicily and Calabria erupt with fishermen searching for what’s known as the king of the strait, swordfish. Once on land, the massive fish is cut into succulent steaks for one of Southern Italy’s most emblematic summertime dishes, pesce spada alla ghiotta.
The name, which means “swordfish in glutton’s style,” is a reference to the wealth of delicious ingredients that flavor a rustic tomato sauce. Rife with briny capers, olives, garlic, red pepper flakes and basil, it’s something like a saucy, seafood version of puttanesca.
In the version from our book “Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region, swordfish steaks are browned in olive oil and finish cooking in the garlicky tomato sauce. Capers and basil infuse the dish with bold Mediterranean flavors.
To make it a complete one-pan meal, we add Yukon Gold potatoes. Cutting the potatoes into small, ½-inch pieces ensures they cook completely in the sauce, absorbing flavor along the way.
If you can’t find good swordfish, halibut or mahi mahi also work. Also, don’t let the tomato mixture reach a boil once the fish is returned to the skillet. Low, gentle heat will cook the fish through but keep it moist and tender.
Swordfish With Potatoes, Tomatoes and Capers
Start to finish: 35 minutes Servings: 4
Four 6-ounce swordfish steaks, patted dry
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
14½-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons drained capers
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ cup lightly packed fresh basil, chopped
Season the fish with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the fish and cook, undisturbed, until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a thin metal spatula, transfer the steaks to a plate, turning them browned side up.
In the same skillet over medium-low, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, pepper flakes and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, then add the tomatoes with juices, and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and maintaining a simmer, until a skewer inserted into the potatoes meets no resistance, 10 to 14 minutes.
Stir in the capers and lemon juice, then nestle the steaks in the sauce and pour in any accumulated juices. Cover, reduce to low and cook until the fish is opaque throughout, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the basil and drizzled with additional oil.