Swordfish Puttanesca

This pared back take on the Italian store-cupboard classic uses fresh swordfish steaks, accompanied by sweet cherry tomatoes and anchovy fillets.

From the book

Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking by
Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking
Authentic Venetian dishes across all four seasons
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Puttanesca is the classic store-cupboard sauce, traditionally knocked up in a sluttish manner with whatever you find in the larder, but these days it is a lot more prescriptive and contains more than a fair share of salty ingredients to add punch and piquancy. My version is stripped back and minimalist, more of a salad than a sauce, but all the better on a summer’s day because of it.

Now, swordfish at Rialto Fish Market is plentiful and often the fishmongers there will display a swordfish head or a glorious marlin as a trophy. But I am aware it jumps on and off the endangered list with frequency, so please do check and feel free to substitute sustainable tuna steaks instead, equally delicious with this tangy accompaniment.

Serves 4


40 (or so) ripe cherry tomatoes
flaky sea salt
12 tinned anchovy fillets
20 Kalamata olives
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp small capers
A small handful of oregano leaves
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
4 swordfish steaks
20 (or so) basil leaves


Slice the tomatoes in half and lay them on a chopping board, cut side up. Season generously with salt flakes and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Roughly chop half the anchovies. Pit the olives by squeezing the stones out between finger and thumb – don’t worry if you squash them, they’re better like that.

Put the tomatoes, chopped anchovies, garlic, capers and olives into a very large mixing bowl with the oregano, a pinch of salt, a good twist of black pepper and a few glugs of olive oil. Turn over once or twice with your hand and leave to stand.

Meanwhile, heat an oiled griddle pan over a high flame, season each side of the swordfish steaks and grill for about 3 or 4 minutes each side. If you don’t have a griddle pan, you could simply pan-fry the seasoned steaks in a frying pan with a little olive oil. (The griddle gives such lovely grill lines, though.)

Place the swordfish on four warmed plates, divide the puttanesca sauce equally over the steaks, scatter the basil leaves haphazardly and finally distribute the remaining anchovy fillets.

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