Involtini di Pesce Spada (Swordfish Rolls)

This is the one.  No, this is not the real one because the fish is different.  Let me start again before I get lost in my thoughts.  The only dish that makes my world stop is "sarde a beccafico", a Sicilian dish of sweet & sour sardine rolls filled with breadcrumbs, raisins & pine nuts and wrapped with bay leaves. It's explosive with tastes which is typical of the Sicilian cuisine.  Now what does it have to do with the swordfish rolls?  The recipe is exactly the same except that I used swordfish instead of the sardines.

Sardines are not so easy to find in the fish markets nowadays unless you order them beforehand.  That was my mistake.  On the day that I had been planning to prepare this when we were expecting some guests, I couldn't find a single sardine in town so I bought the swordfish instead.  I knew I should have ordered ahead.

Nonetheless, it was my first time to try out this recipe with this fish.  I was scared to be disappointed because I had already set my mind, heart & excited tummy in having "sarde a beccafico".  Instead, my mother-in-law, the holder of this recipe, nonchalantly told me that swordfish is the same, because it's used in some parts of Sicily.  Not to me it isn't.  Maybe she doesn't realize how much I love her recipe and when a single ingredient goes astray, it alters the taste.  Well, she is the Sicilian after all, not me, so I followed her lead.

With the two of us working in the kitchen, we finished in no time.  This is a very easy recipe.  The only factor that robs your time is the preparation of the fish.  In this aspect, I am pro-swordfish.  The last time I prepared this dish with the sardines, it took me two whole hours in the kitchen to clean & flatten all the sardines!  I swore and swore more but when I put the first forkful of sardines in my mouth, I forgot how much I badmouthed this dish.  Who? Me?

As soon as the oven rang, I couldn't stop myself from flying towards the kitchen and taking out the tray.  I had to try it even if it was still scorching hot.  Rule number one - it's not so good when it's very hot.  You don't put anything in your mouth straight out of the oven anyway, however excited you are.   I had to wait a few more minutes to try it again when it cooled down.  It was marvelous just like its cousin sardines.  It's also a winner!

A few years back, my husband started to ask me to learn his favorite family recipes so I can cook them at home too.  It was bequeathal time.  This is one of the last recipes I approached.  His mother's version is so good that I was scared that mine won't ever parallel with hers.  The thing is, his mom doesn't jot down the exact measurements, just a bit of this and a little bit more of that.  You have to figure out the quantities on your own.  After some trials and errors, I finally understood that the secret is to put a lot of lemon juice & sugar.   Over time, I finally learned this recipe by heart. 

The last sarde a beccafico I did.

Involtini di Pesce Spada (Swordfish Rolls)

Serves 4
  • 800 grams sword fish
  • 1/2 cup raisins, soaked in water, drained & patted dry
  • 3 slices of white bread, sides taken away
  • 2 lemons
  • 7 tablespoons white sugar
  • 40 grams pine nuts
  • Bunch of parsley, chopped finely
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh bay leaves, depending on the number of rolls you can make
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

  1. Put the slices of bread in the food processor or electric chopper to ground.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.  
  2. In the mixing bowl, combine the bread, raisins,  parsley, pine nuts, 5 tablespoons of white sugar, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper & about a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil.  Mix well.  Set aside.  This serves as the filling.
  3. Slice the sword fish as thinly as possible.  Take away the fish bones & spines.  Cut the sword fish in the middle getting about 2.5 inches width per roll. 
  4. Fill up the swordfish with the filling and roll.  
  5. Cover the roll with a bay leaf.  It's easier to do this when the roll is already in the oiled baking dish.  Fill up the baking dish with the rolls.
  6. Drizzle with the juice of the other lemon and sprinkle the remaining white sugar.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 30 minutes.  Put the fan on if using convection oven and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.