Swordfish with Tomato, Chilli and Caper sauce.

I am calling this Pesce Spada alla Putanesca as it reminds me of Sicily.


It was with some reluctance that I decided to throw my recipe into the ring of the Cookbook Guru this month. Firstly, I don’t own a Karen Martini book and I was never tempted to make any of her recipes when they were syndicated weekly in the Sunday Magazine some time back. They just didn’t appeal.  But on a recent trip to the library with Mr Tranquillo, haunter of libraries and frequent borrower, I came across a copy of Karen Martini’s “Cooking at Home.”  After reading the book cover to cover, I was pleasantly surprised and I have already made two dishes from this book, this dish and a pear dessert ( coming soon).

A recent rule I have inflicted on myself is to use up what’s on hand when choosing or inventing a recipe.  As I had already purchased a nice slab of Pesce Spada or Sword Fish from the Preston Market, and had all the other ingredients in my pantry, Karen’s Sword Fish with Tomato, Chilli and Caper sauce ticked all the boxes. I have given the dish the Italian title above as the sauce is very reminiscent of a classic Putanesca sauce. ( it only lacked the anchovies).  And just like the putana, or prostitute of the original, I too had all the ingredients on hand to throw into the sauce. This dish is very piccante, assertive, gustoso.  Any sustainable fish could be substituted, bearing in mind that a delicate fish would be swamped by the flavour. The beauty of this dish is that the sauce can be made ahead: indeed it develops more flavour and thickens, but leave out the basil until reheating.  Snapper or Barramundi could work well too. A nice Pinot Noir or Sangiovese pairs well with this dish.

Serves 4

  • 200 mls extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 7 caperberries, drained and sliced or 2 Tbles of capers
  • 4  Tbles black olives, pitted, (halved)
  • 1 teas dried chilli flakes
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 200 mls white wine ( dry for example Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay)
  • 3 cups chunky tomato pasta sauce (passata)
  • 2 handfuls basil leaves ( oregano would be a good substitute)
  • 4 swordfish, ( about 120 grs each) cut in half lengthways ( remove gristly bits)

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the garlic for 1-2 minutes or until just golden, then add the caperberries, olives, chilli flakes, and salt to taste. Stir. Then pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Add the tomato sauce (sugo or passata), and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Check seasoning and stir in most of the basil.

Brush the swordfish with olive oil and season. Heat a large non stick frying pan over high heat and sear the fish for about two minutes on each side or until just cooked ( and golden).

Spoon the sauce onto four plates or a large platter and top with the fish. Scatter with extra basil and serve with a salad and crusty bread.

I followed the recipe for once! Anything above in brackets are my small notes. The saucing is generous so do include some good bread, or serve with some soft polenta.


A little note re the tomato passata. As I was not able to make tomato sauce this year due to the humble, no pathetic, quantity from my garden, I found this great sauce at BAS foods in Brunswick. It tastes just like one Nonna would make.

21 thoughts on “Swordfish with Tomato, Chilli and Caper sauce.”

  1. Sounds absolutely delicious. I like that you are working on using ingredients to hand for trying new recipes. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed finding some of Karen’s recipes too… I’ve loved some of what i’ve made and found it to be a pleasure to discover them. Thank you for your contribution. Leah


      1. my pleasure.. I do love that we are all having to be resourceful about finding recipes and that includes me. Google has been getting a mighty workout this month 🙂


  2. Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:
    A beautiful and rich fish dish for us from Francesca at Almost Italian. Think putanesca without the anchovies and a glass of gutsy red wine… bring on winter and make sure that you copy down this recipe to make when the cooler weather strikes.
    Happy Cooking.


  3. Sounds delicious. I recently saw swordfish at the butcher but thought ‘What would I do with it?’ Now I know and next time I see it, I will buy it and try your recipe! Thank you.


  4. Delicious dish Francesca. I have only a few fancy fish dishes I use. My fallback position is to pan fry. This is on the to do list, just love the puttanesca style sauce! Thanks for making and sharing!


  5. I’m late this month with my contribution but I love this book – I was looking through it and realised how many of the recipes I still cook but had forgotten where they come from. I love this sauce – I guess it would work with salmon – its the only fish I can get hold of.


  6. It looks and sounds good Francesca. I don’t have the book either but I like what I made and I made Lona’s dish and loved that, so maybe I should buy it.


  7. I love putanesca sauce; it’s one of my most favourite pasta dishes. It just has so much flavour. This swordfish dish looks fabulous and I’m sure it was very tasty xx


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