Swordfish Puttanesca

Never having cared much for either olives or capers, I was surprised by how much I have been enjoying the local supermarket’s “Tuscan Gorgonzola” cheese spread, which tosses nearly every over-the-top strong flavor I can think of into a professional arm wrestling arena to compete for the custody of an estranged son who has been away at military school in the care of his domineering grandfather played by Robert Loggia. I’m not sure there’s actually anything very “Tuscan” about it, unless the very presence of olives and roasted red peppers makes something Tuscan. It has inspired me, though, to find other ways to introduce these unexpected elements, the briney zing! from the green olives, the lip-smacking sharpness of the capers, into other, more familiar dishes.

This swordfish puttanesca works beautifully in this way, with the strong, heavy flavors of the thick swordfish fillet perfectly balancing the bright, vinegary, salty flavor of the olives and capers, along with the sweetness from the just-cooked crushed tomatoes. The finished product tastes just like the sea. Ready in a snap, it’s a somewhat lighter twist on a classic puttanesca, using a big, meaty fish filet in place of nutritionally-void pasta, and adding tons of protein and flavor.

Swordfish Puttanesca

Swordfish Puttanesca
Serves three; Adapted from a recipe in Saveur


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 swordfish steaks (about 6 – 7 oz. each and 1/2 – 3/4″ thick), skin removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 anchovies in oil, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups whole peeled canned tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
  • 1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons. roughly chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, season fish with salt and pepper, and add to pan. Cook, flipping once, until golden brown outside and medium rare inside, about three minutes total. Transfer fish to a plate to rest, and set aside. Return pan to heat, and add garlic and anchovies. Cook until soft, about two minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes. Cook until nearly all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Return swordfish to pan, add parsley and lemon juice, and continue cooking until fish is finished cooking through, about two minutes more. Divide fish among plates, and top with sauce.


Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road." He currently owns and operates the Ancho Honey restaurant in Maine.


    1. Swordfish is definitely something to be careful of; imported varieties are sometimes caught using non-sustainable fishing practices. I’ll confess that Hannaford doesn’t list the origins of its swordfish steaks, identifying them only as “wild caught.” Because I am on a “once every three year or so” swordfish eating cycle, I’m not worrying about it too much. If using swordfish still gives you the ethical heebie-jeebies, though, this recipe works equally well with mahi mahi, or any moderately firm white fish. Thanks for writing, Vicky!

      1. I’m not so much bothered by the ethical concerns about swordfish. The mercury it contains on the other hand does concern me.

        As mercury concentration increases as you go up to food chain, swordfish sitting near the very top of it have quite a bit of mercury.

        I’ve heard things like each ounce has the equivalent of what was dissolved in 6 million liters of sea water. Not sure how true that is.

        But I know several sushi lovers like me, who have been shocked to find out they officially have enough mercury in their bodies to qualify as mercury poisoned.

        New parents, infant brain development, etc.

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