Sicilian Swordfish “Meatballs” - Polpette di Pesce Spada
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Inspired by a recent adventure in Palermo.
Serves: 12 to 14 large polpette
  • 1 pound of fresh swordfish steak from a reliable fishmonger
  • 2½ cup of fresh breadcrumbs from quality European stye bread
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 Tbs. pine nuts
  • 3 Tbs. shredded mint leaves
  • Finely grated peel of 1 large lemon
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Olive oil and Sunflower oil for frying
  • 1 - 28 ounce can of San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • Small pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 sprig fresh mint
  • Fresh mint to garnish the finished dish
  1. Remove any skin from the swordfish and cut it into half inch dice. Once the swordfish has been diced, reserve half of it and with the other half begin to cut into finer pieces by going back and forth over the diced swordfish with the blade of your chef’s knife. This will result in a finer, yet uneven texture swordfish which when combined with the other ingredients will help stabilize the polpette. Place all of the swordfish into a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Add the breadcrumbs, pecorino, egg, pine nuts, shredded mint leaves, lemon zest, cinnamon, a bit of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to the bowl. Using your clean hands, gently combine all of the ingredients making sure the mixture is well amalgamated.
  3. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment.
  4. Combine the Semolina and All Purpose flours with a pinch of salt and place on a large plate.
  5. Using you hands, form the mixture into golf ball sized polpette and roll each into the flour mixture, lay on the prepared parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate the finished polpette for 3 to 4 hours.
  6. Begin the sauce by adding a few tablespoons of olive oil to a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the sliced garlic and let it sizzle to release the flavor, do not let it burn. Pass the San Marzano tomatoes through a food mill into the saucepan. Add the small pinch of cinnamon and mint sprig. Simmer over low heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  7. In a heavy skillet (I used cast iron) add about ½ inch of an equal amount of olive and sunflower oil. Heat over medium high heat until the oil is hot. Remove the polpette from the refrigerator and arrange a paper towel lined plate next to the fry pan. Gently place the polpette into the hot oil without crowding the pan; you want to fry them not steam them in oil. Give the polpette time to properly brown on one side before turning them, a table fork works well. As the polpette become brown on all sides remove them to the paper towel to drain of any excess oil.
  8. Gently warm the tomato sauce, remove the mint sprig and garlic slices. Place the fried polpette into the sauce once it is warm, turning them to be sure that they are all coated in the sauce. Allow the polpette to warm, they need not cook.
  9. Spoon a bit of sauce into individual serving bowls and place 2 to 3 polpette in each bowl, topped with a bit more sauce and some mint for garnish. Serve immediately
Recipe by LaBellaSorella at