The Italian Larder
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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V W Y Z
Fagiolo – See Bean
Fagiolo mangiatutto – See Green Bean
Fagiolino– see Green Bean
Farina – see Flour
Fava – See Bean
Fava bean – See Bean
Felciata – See Cheese
Fennel / Florence fennel (Finocchio / Finocchietto) (Foeniculum vulgare)
Equivalents: 1 cultivated bulb=120-180 grams net weight = ¾ cup chopped or sliced
Fennel is a native vegetable to the Mediterranean. Fennel is harvested from September through April but the season depends on where it is grown. The varieties are typically named after where it is grown, for example “Gigante di Napoli” is from Campania, “Mantovano” is from Mantova, “Grosso di Sicilia” is from Sicilia, “Dolce di Firenze” is from Firenze, and “Finocchio di Parma” is from Parma. The Wadenromen variety is slightly oval in shape and is very sweet. Fennel is said to sweeten the breath and calm flatulence so it was historically served at the end of a meal in Italy, as the seeds are in India today.
Buy: Fennel is white to light green in colour with a bulb with concentric layers similar to an onion except with no paper-like skin on the outside. It has a liquorice-like aroma. The bulbous root of the fennel, the feather-like leaves similar to dill, and the seeds are the parts that are typically eaten. The bulb should be firm, tender, compact, and crunchy without any cracks or signs of bolting. Fennel which has started to yellow or has elongated brown streaks is past its prime. The outer layers are unlikely to be blemish free and will be removed in any case, but evaluate whether the interior layers are pristine. The fennel fronds should be feathery and not wilted or wet.
Cultivated fennel (Finocchio) (Foeniculum vulgare)
Cultivated fennel is fatter, rounder, sweeter and larger (grows up to 12cm in diameter) than wild fennel. The female fennel bulbs are fatter and sweeter while the male fennel bulbs are flatter and more fibrous. The oval-shaped fennel are better for cooking while the more rounded are best for eating raw.
Wild fennel (Finocchiello / Finocchio selvatico / Finochetto / Finocchio asinino) (Foeniculum vulgare Mill)
Wild fennel are more elongated, slightly bitter in flavour, and smaller (grow up to 5cm in diameter) than cultivated fennel. It grows wild and is often growing next to roads. It is much more aromatic that cultivated fennel due to its essential oils and it has yellow flowers during the summer. It is a characteristic flavouring in Sicilia, Calabria, Puglia, and Sardegna.
Store: Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. It cannot be frozen. Fennel fronds can be kept wrapped in a damp kitchen in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Prepare: Prepare the fennel just before cooking as it discolours when cut. Remove the stalks and tough outer layer layers and trim 1cm off the base of the fennel. If the fennel bulb is large, taste the core to see if it is tough or stringy, and if so, cut it out. These parts can be discarded or used to stuff fish or meat for roasting or baking, create a bed under roasting meat, in stock, or in court-bouillon. The fronds can be reserved and used in salads, stuffings, or used to stuff fish or lamb for grilling or baking. Quarter or slice the bulb and rinse well between the sections to ensure there is no soil.
Eat: It pairs very well with fish. Italians eat it raw, thinly sliced and dressed with olive oil (finocchi in insalata), whole after a meal like fruit, in crudité (pinzimonio) or in a salad (insalata di finocchi e olive). Fennel does not pair well with vinegar though so it is usually omitted when fennel is used in salads. It can be boiled and baked au gratin (finocchi gratinati), braised (finocchi al latte), steamed, sautéed (finocci alla giudia), stewed (finocchi al burro e formaggio, finocchi in tegame), grilled, breaded and deep-fried (finocchi dorati), in risotto (riso coi finocchi) or made into flans (sformato di finocchi). Wild fennel is used as an aromatic in grilled dishes (branzino allo spiedo con finocchio selvatico) or in griddled dishes (branzino ai ferri con finocchio selvatico) and fish soups. Wild fennel is also used to dress pastas (pasta con le sarde), flavour soups (macco), flavour breads and flatbreads, flavour boiled chestnuts (ballotta), flavour roast or barbecued meat (porchetta, fegatelli), flavour cured meats (finocchiona), make relish (rosamarina), make preserves (caroselle sott’aceto), in stuffings (maiolino al forno), in casseroles (pollo in porchetta, coniglio in porchetta), and are roasted and served on bread (crostini di barbe di finochio selvatico). Fennel partners well with olive oil, butter, bay leaf, parsley, fennel seeds, orange, lemon, saffron, tomatoes, potatoes, olives, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and goat cheese.
Fennel seed (Semo di Finocchio) (Foeniculum vulgare)
Fennel seeds are a spice said to aid digestion and sweeten the breath.
Buy: Fennel seeds should be fresh and smell of fennel. They should taste of sweet aniseed.
Store: Fennel seeds should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place in an airtight container
Prepare: I often toast and fennel seed before using. Some recipes call for it to be ground to a powder in a mortar or spice grinder, particularly when it is to be sprinkled over fish before grilling.
Eat: Not many spices are used in Italian cooking but fennel combines so well with fish (triglie alla genovese) and pork, particularly in salami (finocchiona/sbriciolona), innards (ciarimbolo), and sausages (‘ndoc ‘ndoc). Fennel seeds are also used in nougat (mandorlotto). They can be ground and rubbed on meat (arista) or fish or added to stocks or court-bouillon. Fennel seeds are also used to flavour chestnuts, black olives, dried figs, grappa, breads, crisp-breads (taralli), and oils.
Fico – See Fig
Fig (Fico) (Ficus carica)
There are more than 700 varieties of figs and their season depends on the variety as some varieties only produce fruit once a year while others produce several times a year. Typically mature figs are in the markets at the end of summer, although there is a variety which matures in July called fiorone which are tasteless but juicy. The white varieties tend to mature in August and September and are used in syrups, are candied or are made into preserves. The most prized varieties are Dottato / Ottato, S Vito Albo, Gentile bianco, Moscadello, Verdello, Genovese, and S. Pietro.
Buy: Figs are a fruit which are sold fresh or dried (fichi secchi), sometimes stuffed with nuts. Figs have an edible skin which can be purple, green, white, black or brown. The interior flesh can be a deep purple, red, or pink colour with many tiny seeds. Look for figs which have juice leaking from the bottom of the fig and feel heavy for their size. Because figs are extremely perishable there is a temptation to pick them while unripe but once they are picked they do not continue to ripen much. There should be no white milky liquid on the stem end- an indication the fig was picked unripe. They should be plump, and without any mould or wrinkles on the skin- a sign that they are dry or rotten inside. Very ripe figs will be soft to touch, may have small cracks in the skin, and may have a bend in the stem. The flesh should be juicy without any sign of drying seeds. They should be extremely delicate and soft so are difficult to transport. Dried figs can be sold as they are or stored in earthenware or glass jars with bay leaves.
Store: Figs are best eaten as fresh as possible but can be stored on paper at room temperature for up to two days. Be careful of any mould and discard any figs with signs of mould immediately.
Prepare: Rinse the figs with water and cut off the stem. If the skin is thick, then peel them. To dry figs, leave them for a week in a dry place in direct sun, or dry in a low oven or dehydrator for 12 hours.
Eat: Figs are good eaten on their own, with prosciutto as a starter, stuffed, or used in desserts. They can be served raw for dessert with cream, custard, or macerated with sugar and liquor. They are also baked with wine and sugar and served cold, caramelised (fiche caramellati), made into tarts (crostata ai fichi), or with Bavarian cream (bavarese ai fichi). Figs can also be baked into bread (panficato). In Venice figs are cooked with liver (fegato coi fichi). In Roma, figs are often used in both savour and sweet dishes. Dried figs can be minced and made into cakes (pitta ‘mpigliata, frustingo,panetto di fiche, panforte) or stuffed (bratte/crucette/padruni).
Filbert – See Hazelnut
Finocchio – See Fennel
Finocchiona Toscana – See Salami
Fiordilatte – See Cheese
- Salt cod
- Eel, Conger
- Eel, Mediterranean
- Gilt-head bream
- Grey Mullet
- John Dory
- Mackerel, Atlantic horse
- Mullet, Red
- Mullet, Striped Red
- Pilot fish
- Pumpkinseed sunfish
- Sea bass
- Sea bream
- Sea bream, axillary
- Sea bream, black
- Sea bream, saddled
- Sea bream, striped
- Sea bream, white
- Shi drum
- Sole, yellowfin
- Tuna, preserved
- Whiting, blue
Equivalent: 1 kilo of whole round fish = 500 grams of meat
1 to 1.1 kilo of whole flat fish = 500 grams of meat
500 grams of meat = 2 main course servings = 4 starter servings
There are more than 30,000 species of salt-water fish, freshwater fish, and brackish water fish. In Italy, the most prized fish are the sole (sogliola), seabass (spigola), and the gilt-head bream (orata). The same fish have several names so to be precise, it is best to use the scientific name which is distinct. Fish are eaten fresh, preserved, or dried. Fish is becoming more popular as it has fewer calories, and contains beneficial fats including Omega-3 which are proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Many people are now enjoying eating fresh fish more regularly due to an improvement in transportation and logistics. Different species of fish will range in fat from 0.5-30% with species with the highest fat content including salmon, sturgeon, and eel. Fish have calcium, potassium phosphorus, and Vitamins A, B, D,and E as well as iodine, phosphorous, zinc, and copper.
Buy: Fish can be purchased fresh, frozen, smoked, dried, and salted. Fish can be sold whole or in pieces. The best quality fish will always be wild fish but there are now some very good farmed fish on the market.
Whole fresh fish: The best practice is to buy from the same person every time to better ensure the fish is good quality. Look for the following 5 factors:
Body: To check if a fish is fresh, hold it horizontally by grabbing the head. If it is fresh, it will remain straight, due to rigor mortis. Press the flesh with your thumb, the flesh should spring back into shape, if an indentation remains, the fish is old. The stomach should be plump not swollen or soft. This test does not apply to tuna or swordfish however which need to be matured to tenderise them and develop their flavour.
Eyes: Check that the eyes are bulging (not sunken), clear (not cloudy) with black pupils (not dilated or grey with red rims)
Gills: Should be bright red, wet, and clean (not dark red or brown, slimy, dry, or dirty).
Skin: The fish should be brightly coloured, tight, wet, gleam and be slippery with an evenly distributed, clear, viscous slime covering it. It should not be dry or wrinkled. Freshwater fish should be silvery or green and not brown as they are likely to be muddy.
Smell: The fish should smell slightly like seaweed (if it is saltwater fish) or marsh grasses (if it is freshwater fish). There should not be any fishy, acrid, ammonia, muddy, or rancid smell. However, shark and ray may have an ammonia smell and this is normal.
Cut fish: If the fish is still on the bone, check that the flesh is firmly attached to the bone and not loose or discoloured. The flesh should be elastic. If the fish has been de-boned, where the bone was removed, there should be a small hole and the flesh there slightly rosy in colour. The skin should look tight and bright.
Note: In some parts of the West, it is not advisable to buy fresh fish on a Monday as Sunday is a rest day so the fish will have been sitting for some time.
Frozen fish should have the same attributes as fresh fish. Check for any odours and the cloudiness of the eyes for signs of less than fresh fish.
Sometimes the fish’s liver is eaten, particularly that of cod (merluzzo) which is smoked and served as a starter. The livers of anchovies, sardines, hake, shad, grouper, sea bass, monkfish, and whiting are rich in Omega 3 and are edible.
The eggs, sperm sac, and the stomach of the monkfish are also eaten (see below).
Store: When you take the fish home, before you store it, the fish should be cleaned. Lift up the gills and use scissors to cut the red part out of the gills. The gills filter out impurities while the fish is alive and later decompose rapidly.
There are a couple of methods to gut a fish (some of the interiors can be eaten, see “Buy” above). For round fish, you can either cut along the stomach from the gills down to the anal fin and pull out and discard the guts, or you can first remove the gills and then use the hooked handle end of a spoon to draw down through the bottom of the head of the fish to draw out the guts and discard. For flat fish, feel which side the stomach is one (it should be softer) and make an incision starting at the head downwards to remove the guts.
Once the fish is cleaned, rinse it in cold water, especially the abdominal cavity and dry thoroughly inside and out. Mix 3 parts water to 1 part edible alcohol and sprinkle 2 paper towels with the solution. Place one of the paper towels in a plastic container which can be sealed air-tight and put the fish on top of it, stomach side opened onto the towel. Cover the fish with the other paper towel and close the container and keep in the refrigerator. Repeat the following day if not using the fish that day.
Once you have stored the fish, if an unpleasant smell (for example, ammonia) persists even after cooking, it is best to assume the fish is not edible. If the smell disappears then it is edible.
Special preparation for freshwater fish: Freshwater fish which smell muddy can be cleared of its muddy taste. To do this either keep fish alive in clean water alive for 2 days, or if it has already been killed, soak the fish in water and vinegar solution, repeating this process 3 to 4 times.
Cleaning: To clean a whole fish, use scissors to cut off the dorsal, pectoral, and anal fins. Be careful while doing this as some of the fish have spines. Freshwater fish should have the blood along the backbone removed as it is bitter. Check inside the mouth of the freshwater fish to ensure there are no weeds in its mouth or throat.
Scaling: If you are not going to remove the skin of the fish and it is to be used in a soup, deep-fried, or stewed, then the fish must be scaled. Place the fish on a board and hold the head firmly, use a fish scaler or the spine of a knife (if you use a knife then do this part in a sink) to run down the body starting at the head down to the tail to remove the scales. Repeat until all the scales are removed.
Cutting: Fish can be cut into tranches, fillets, decapitated, boned (using tweezers), scaled, left whole, or stuffed. See the guide here on how to cut fish.
Cooking whole: Fish may be cooked with its scales if it is to be grilled, roasted, spit-roasted, steamed, baked in salt, or baked in seaweed but it will not make pan juices. Some people prefer to score larger fish at its thickest part so that it cooks more evenly. With medium-sized firm fish, measure it at the thickest point and cook for 10 minutes per 2.5cm (1 inch). You can use the tip of a knife to pierce the thickest part of the flesh. Touch the tip gently to your lip to see if it is hot,indicating it is cooked. The flesh should flake easily and be opaque. You do not want for the fat to start running out of the fish. Flat fish and fillets will cook much more quickly than the ratio given above so you need to test using the flaking and opaqueness techniques. Small fish are best fried, grilled, or in soup.
Eat: Fish in Italy is roasted (pesce arrosto in forno), pan-roasted (pesce arrosto in padella), grilled (pesce arrosto alla griglia), spit-roasted (pesce arrosto allo spiedo), steamed in parchment paper (pesce al cartoccio), baked in salt (pesce cotto sotto sale), deep-fried (pesce fritto), poached, boiled (pesce lessato), stewed (pesce in umido), and cooked in soups. It is cooked quickly as the flesh begins to disintegrate if overcooked. Generally, freshwater fish are cooked on their own and not combined with other fish like saltwater fish are in Italy. Freshwater fish, aside from salmon, grayling, char, and trout are usually not cooked using water, but instead use wine and vinegar.
Other edible fish parts: Fish eggs can be eaten boiled, deep-fried, or braised. Fish livers of certain species are eaten (see “Buy” above). The sperm sack can be cooked like fish eggs. Tuna sperm sac is dried and shaved. Monkfish stomach is braised and eaten.
Types of fish:
Acciuga – See Anchovy or Sardine
Aguglia – See Garfish
Aguglia imperiale– See Fish: Spearfish, Mediterranean
Aguglia maggiore – See Needlefish, agujon
Alaccia – See Sardinella
Alalunga– See Tuna
Alborella – See Bleak
Alice – See Anchovy
Alosa – See Shad
Alosa agone – See Shad
Amberjack, greater (Ricciola) (Seriola dumerili)
Substitution: bluefish, dentex, swordfish
Regional names: Central and Northern Italy: leccia/leccia bastarda; Marche and Puglia: ombrina boccadoro
Greater amberjack are best eaten in the winter or summer. They are saltwater fish, and can grow up to 2 meters in length. They have firm and delicate-flavoured flesh. It can be baked whole or in slices (ricciola al forno coi carciofi), broiled, poached in court-bouillon, steamed, or grilled. It pairs well with herbs, particularly basil.
Anchovy (Acciuga / Alice) (Engraulis encrasicolus)
Regional names: Sicilia: aliccia / anciova / masculina, Piemonte: ancioa (if preserved), Liguria: amplova / amploa, Marche: lilla / magnana, Veneto: sardela / sardòn, Friuli Venezia Giulia: sardòn, Puglia: speronara
Anchovies are small saltwater fish, up to 20cm long. The very young anchovies are sold as whitebait (see below). Fresh anchovies are in season from March until September. Traditional varieties include Acciuga di Monterosso and Alice di menaica. Anchovies are another iconic Italian food. They add depth of flavour and a distinct salty flavour to a dish. They are used in everything…except desserts.
Buy: Anchovies come fresh, filleted and jarred or tinned in olive oil (filetti di acciuga sott’olio) or brine, or whole or filleted and salted in jars or tins (acciughe sotto sale). They are also made into a paste (see below). Salted whole anchovies in a tin are thought to be higher quality but need additional preparation. I prefer the anchovies in oil to those in brine.
Fresh anchovies can be eaten every season of the year. For fresh anchovies, buy ones which are a bright silver with a blue-green hinge. They have a slim body and a protruding jaw. When anchovies are not fresh they turn dark blue or black and should be avoided.
Store: Fresh anchovies should be eaten as soon as possible. If you must store fresh anchovies, cover with shaved or flaked ice in a perforated container on top of a solid container to catch any melted water in the refrigerator. The ice prevents contact with the air and the perforated container ensures the fish stays dry to preserve its texture and flavour. When using preserved, tinned anchovies, I transfer them to a sealed airtight jar or plastic container airtightafter I have opened the tin. I then make sure that the anchovies remain covered with whatever they came preserved in with and place them in the refrigerator.
Prepare: Salted anchovies should be washed in milk or water to remove the salt. If the anchovies are not filleted then you need to remove the bones, heads, and guts. First use your thumb to slit the fish open along the belly moving from the head to the tail. Then remove the head and guts pinch the the head just below the gills and pull downwards towards the tail. Open up the anchovy and use your thumbnail to slide the bones out.
Eat: They are rolled around vegetables in starters, top pizzas and breads, are melted into sauces for pasta (bigoli), are combined with breadcrumbs to top risotti, used in omelettes, are used to flavour meats, served fresh on their own plain, stuffed or rolled and then either grilled, baked, deep-fried, stewed, or fried, used in salads, and are mixed into stuffing to stuff vegetables. Fresh anchovies can also be marinated in olive oil and lemon juice and eaten raw.
Anchovy paste (Pasta d’acciuga)
This is anchovy pureed with oil and is sold in a pot or a tube. It can be used as a substitute for anchovies where the anchovy is being melted into a sauce. It has the advantage of allowing one to more easily control the amount added to a dish.
Angler– See Monkfish
Anguilla – See Eel
Baccalà – see Cod
Barbel (Barbo, Barbo canino) (Barbus plebejus, Barbus caninus)
Barbel is a freshwater fish that lives in lakes and rivers which has delicate meat, but many bones. The small ones are usually fried, grilled, or broiled. The large ones are boiled or stewed (barbo al vino). The eggs are toxic.
Italian barbel (Barbo) (Barbus plebejus) is a freshwater fish that lives in rivers and sometimes lakes in Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, and Slovenia. It can grow up to 80cm in length.
Brook barbel (Barbo canino) (Barbus caninus) is a freshwater fish that lives in rivers in Italy and Switzerland. It can grow up to 40cm in length.
Barbo – See Barbel
Barbo canino – See Barbel
Barbone – See Mullet, Red/Mullet, Striped
Barracuda, great (Barracuda) (Sphyraena barracuda)
The barracuda lives in tropical saltwater but sometimes also lives in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It can grow to 50cm in length and its normally eaten in the summer. The meat is mediocre and not very flavourful. Barracuda is often flavoured with strong aromatics such as garlic, onion, capers, and olives.
Bianchetti – See Whitebait
Bisato – See Eel
Bleak (Alborella) (Alburnus alburnus)
Regional names: Veneto and Trentino: àola / àgola / àvola
Bleak is an elongated flattish freshwater fish that lives in northern Italian lakes. It grows up to 20cm in length. Bleak is easily deboned and is suitable for deep-frying, grilling, or pickling (carpione). It can also be dried and preserved in brine or sun-dried (sisam).
Bluefish (Pesce serra) (Pomatomus saltatrix)
Substitution: greater amberjack, sea bass
Regional names: ballerina
Bluefish is a saltwater fish which can grow up to 1 meter in length. It has sharp triangular shaped teeth. It is sometimes incorrectly labelled as sea bass. Some people love bluefish and others find it mediocre. It can be baked whole, steamed, or grilled. It pairs well with lemon and/or capers.
Boga – See Bogue
Bogue (Boga) (Boops boops)
Regional names: Liguria: buga, south-central Italy: vopa / opa
Bogue is a saltwater fish and a type of sea bream that lives in the Mediterranean Sea. It can grow up to 40cm in length but is typically not more than 15-20cm and can weigh up to 1.5 kilos. Bogue can be eaten any season of the year. It must be disembowelled quickly after dying or the flesh will take on an off-putting odour. It is versatile in cooking method and has very tasty flesh. It is good raw, deep-fried, grilled, and in soup. They are good deep-fried or fried and then marinated in vinegar and aromatics (a scapece).
Bondella- Whitefish, European
Bosega – See Grey mullet
Bottatrice – See Burbot
Branzino – See Sea bass
Brill (Rombo liscio / Rombo soaso) (Scophthalmus rhombus)
Substitutions: turbot, sole, John Dory
Regional names: From Venice to Abruzzo along the Adriatic coast: soaso/suaso
Brill is part of the turbot family and is a flat saltwater fish that can grow up to 70cm in length. It has good quality, firm meat but is inferior to turbot. Brill needs to be cooked gently over low heat. It can be stewed, poached, grilled (with its skin on), steamed, fried, or breaded, pan-fried, or cooked in soups and stews. It goes very well with butter and/or herbs and less well with olive oil.
Bubbot – See Burbot
Burbot / Bubbot / Mariah / Eelpout (Bottatrice) (Lota lota)
Substitution: eel, European (anguilla)
Burbot is a freshwater fish that lives in lakes in northern Italy. It can grow up to a meter in length but is normally 30-60cm. The delicate, white meat is tasty and best eaten in the summer. It can be broiled, stewed, stuffed, baked, roasted, or fried. The liver is also prized, eaten pan-fried in butter. Large burbot livers are sometimes salted and dried.
Calamita – See Grey Mullet
Cantaro – See Sea bream, black
Capone – See Gurnard, tub
Carlino– See Sea bream, white
Carp (Carpa) (Ciprinus carpio)
Substitution: grass carp (amur / carpa erbivora) (ctenopharyngodon idella), tench
Carp is an omnivorous native freshwater fish in Italy. It is able to be sustainably farmed. It can grow up to 1 meter in length. Carp used to live amongst the rice fields, its manure fertilising the soil. It has soft, amber coloured flesh which is prized in the parts of northern Italy where there are rice fields and in central Italy near Lake Trasimeno. The most prized variety is the carpa a specchio. It is cleaned like other fish except that it has many bones throughout the body and the tail. If the fish smells muddy, briefly soak it in water and vinegar solution, as this will remove the unpleasant taste. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times. The small ones can be deep-fried, fried and marinated in vinegar and aromatics (carpa in carpione), or cooked into risotto. The large ones can be baked whole with the stomach cavity stuffed with lardo and aromatics (carpa regina in porchetta) or stewed in gelatinous broth (carpa in bianco alla tremezzina). The eggs are aso eaten.
Carpa regina / Carpa comune is completely covered with scales and can weigh up to 30 kilos. It can be difficult to scale. Pour boiling water over it to scale it more easily.
Carpa a specchio is a golden green colour, has large scales, and can weigh up to 38 kilos. This is the most prized carp.
Carpa cuoio has no scales and can weigh up to 20 kilos.
Carpa– See Carp
Carpione (Carpione / Salmo carpa) (Salmo carpio)
Carpione is a prized freshwater fish native to Lake Garda. It has delicate, high-quality flesh which is usually broiled, grilled, roasted, or boiled and dressed with olive oil. It is traditionally floured, deep-fried, and marinated in onion and sage or bay leaf, sometimes with carrot, celery, salt, water, and vinegar.
Catfish (Pesce gatto) (Siluriformes)
Catfish, black bullhead (Pesce gatto) (Ameiurus melas)
The black bullhead catfish originates from the United States but were introduced to Italy in the 19th century. They now live in rivers, lakes, and ponds in Italy or are farmed. Catfish grow up to 25 cm in length. The quality of the meat depends on the environment in which it lives. Look for catfish which is white and sweet-smelling. It needs to be skinned before cooking. It has few bones so is easy to fillet. Small catfish can be fried in olive oil or lard (frittura di pesce del Po), roasted on the grill or oven with sage; in risottos, stewed (pesce gatto in umido) or floured, fried, and marinated in vinegar and garlic (pesce gatto in ajoon).
Catfish, Wels / Sheatfish (Siluro) (Silurus glanis)
Originating in Eastern Europe, the Wels catfish is a bottom feeding freshwater fish that can grow up to 2.5 meters. It has infested the Po River and its tributaries. The amber coloured meat is flabby so not often eaten in Italy although it is prized in Eastern Europe. The best ones weigh less than 3 kilos. It comes fresh, salted, dried, or smoked. Look for white, sweet-smelling catfish. It needs to be skinned before it can be cooked. Wels catfish can be cut in tranches and fried or stewed.
Caustelo – See Grey Mullet
Cefalo – See Grey Mullet
Cernia – See Grouper
Char, arctic (Salmerino) (Salvelinus alpinus)
Substitution: trout, salmon
Arctic char is a freshwater fish that lives in the lakes in Trentino Alto-Adige. Its population is currently in decline but it has been successfully farmed. It can grow up to 40-60 cm in length and usually weigh up to 2 kilos, although they can grow to 15 kilos. It’s white to red-orange coloured meat is prized for its delicate consistency and flavour but it is a rare find. It is excellent cooked in any way. The large ones are best smoked, marinated, broiled, or raw. The small ones can be boiled, fried, deep-fried, stewed with wine, mushrooms, or black truffle, or roasted with pancetta, lardo, or prosciutto crudo.
Cicerello – See Eel, Mediterranean sand
Cobite – See Loach, spined
Coccio– See Gurnard, tub
Cod / Atlantic Cod / Codling / Haberdine (Merluzzo atlantico) (Gadus morhua)
Atlantic cod is the king of the codfish. It is a saltwater fish that is currently at risk so consumption needs to be reduced (substitute Pacific cod or Poor cod). It lives in the northern Atlantic Ocean and can grow up to 2 meters in length and 45 kilos in weight. Fresh cod is typically sold whole without the head or as skinned fillets, about 40 to 50 cm in length. Cod is best when very fresh. Frozen cod has less flavour than fresh cod, but it is more consistent in quality than fresh cod and does not need to be defrosted before cooking. When selecting filets, choose the middle cut which should have the tenderness of the tail and the flavour of the shoulder. The meat should be without yellow or pinkish patches. Its meat is composed of large flakes and, when fresh, will have fat between the flakes. To prepare cod, rub it with cut lemon half an hour before cooking to tenderise and whiten the flesh. It can be baked, boiled, stewed (merluzzo alla marinara), pan-fried, or deep-fried. It is also sold salted as salt cod (baccalà) or dried as stockfish/dried cod (stoccafisso) – see below. The liver of the cod fish is also eaten, smoked and served as a starter.
Other types of cod:
Pacific Cod (Macrocefalo) (Gadus macrocefalus)
Pacific cod is a saltwater fish from the Pacific Ocean usually found in Italy as salt cod (baccalà) or stockfish/dried cod (stoccafisso)
Poor Cod (Merluzzetto) (Trisopterus minutus)
Substitution: blue whiting
Poor cod is a saltwater fish that is similar to blue whiting and cooked in the same way. It can be boiled, breaded and deep-fried open flat, or the small ones can be fried in butter.
Salt cod (Baccalà)
Equivalent: 700 grams dried salt cod = 1 kilo rehydrated salt cod = 800 grams rehydrated and cleaned salt cod= 4 servings
Note: Baccalà in Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Trentino means stockfish, not salt cod.
Salt cod is cod preserved by salting, a technique used since the 17th century.
Buy: The fish is sold encrusted in salt or opened up flat and re-soaked. Good quality salt cod should be soft, flavourful, and not fibrous when cooked although this is difficult to judge when purchasing. Look for pieces not less than 40 cm in length and at least 3 cm thick, which are white without any yellow tinge or staining (although it should not be too white or it may have been whitened artificially). Choose a piece with less salt as it will need to be soaked for a shorter period of time.
Prepare: Salt cod needs to be prepared before being used in a dish. It should be brushed under running cold water, soaked for 48 hours in a plastic bowl filled with cold water and the water needs to be changed frequently (every two hours, except at night). The fish should then be boned and skinned before cooking.
Eat: Salt cod can be stewed (baccalà alla potentina, baccalà alla napoletana), baked in parchment paper (baccalà a foco morto), baked (baccalà a sfincione, baccalà al forno alla calabrese), fried (baccalà alla fiorentina, baccalà in zimino), deep-fried, made into meatballs (polpette di baccalà), and stuffed (baccalà ripieno).
Stockfish / Dried cod (Stoccafisso / Baccalà)
Equivalent: 400 grams dried stockfish = 700 grams rehydrated stockfish= 4 servings
Regional names: Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino: baccalà, stocche, piscistoccu, stucco
Note: Stockfish in Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Trentino is called baccalà, not stoccafisso.
Stockfish is wind-dried cod from Norway which once was quite cheap but today is rather pricy.
Buy: The most prized stockfish is labelled ragno. The best quality should be 70-80 cm in length, white without any yellow tinge or staining, thin, and almost translucent. Medium quality stockfish is typically sold already soaked and in slices.
Prepare: When buying stockfish, check if it has been pre-soaked. If not, it will need to be beaten with a meat tenderiser, and then soaked for 4 days. If the stockfish is not very good quality, it may even need to be soaked for up to 5 to 6 days. When soaking, change the water every 2 hours (except at night). Once rehydrated, the stockfish should have doubled in weight and become more elastic. It should be boned before cooking. Some recipes require the skin and others don’t.
Eat: Stockfish is usually stewed (stoccafisso accomodato, stoccafisso all’anconetana, stoccafisso alla livornese, baccalà alla veneziana), poached (baccalà alla trevigiana, baccalà alla vicentina), boiled (baccalà in bianco), or pureed (baccalà mantecato alla veneziana).
Coda di rospo– See Frog fish
Codling – See Cod
Coregone- See Fish: Whitefish, European
Corifena cavallina – See Mahi-Mahi
Corvina – See Meagre, brown
Dentex (Dentice) (Dentex Dentex)
Substitution: red porgy, sea bream, gilt-head bream, grouper
Dentex is a saltwater fish which are named from their large teeth (“denti” means “teeth” in Italian). It is pink coloured and can be as long as 1 meter (but is typically 40-50 cm). It lives all over the Mediterranean Sea. It is sold fresh or frozen and whole or in pieces. The flesh is lean and flavourful. The meat is versatile and can be cooked in many different ways including broiled, pan-fried (trance di dentice in padella), grilled, roasted (dentice arrosto alla ligure), baked (dentice al forno) or boiled but is often baked in salt in the oven.
Dentice – See Dentex
Dolphin fish – See Mahi-Mahi
Dotto– See Grouper
Eel (Anguilla / Bisato) (Anguilla anguilla)
Regional names: Veneto: bisat / bisato / bisatto
The eel starts out its life in the Sargasso Sea and then makes tts way up the rivers where it lives for 9 to 15 years before returning to the sea. Eels are sold as juveniles, called elvers (ceca) which are 5-8c m in length and eaten in the spring, or as adults (l’argentina are the males and the capitone are the females) which are best eaten in the autumn. The freshwater eel is at risk of extinction so only buy the adult eel or the farmed eel. The male eel can grow up to 50 cm in length. The male eel which weighs about 130 grams is called buratello. The female eel can grow up to 1.5 meters in length. The female eel which weighs 400-500 grams is called capitone. The best tasting eel is the one which is returning to the sea at the end of the summer and autumn. The most prized eel is from Lake Garda especially on the Verona side in Veneto, from Orbetello in Toscana, and from Lesina in Puglia. Eel is sold fresh, smoked (anguilla sfumata), and preserved in vinegar (anguilla marinata / anguilla scavecciata). Fresh eel should be purchased alive and must be cooked immediately as they deteriorate quickly.
Prepare: Cleaning eel is quite complicated so see the guide here. Elvers should be soaked in salted, acidulated water for hours before cooking.
Eat: Eel is eaten in a variety of ways and is a Christmas tradition in parts of Italy. It can be roasted (anguilla arrosto), grilled (anguilla alla griglia), fried (anghilla alla borghigiana), baked (anguilla alla fiorentina), spit-roasted (anguilla allo spiedo), stewed (anguilla alla bisentina, anguilla in umido alla comacchiese), broiled, cooked in soups (minestra di anguilla), or made into paté. They are also floured, fried, and marinated in water, vinegar and aromatics (anguilla in carpione). Eel is often stewed in wine. Elvers can be eaten breaded and deep-fried. Smoked eel can be served as a starter on toast with butter and lemon juice.
Eel, Conger (Grongo) (Conger conger)
Regional names: Liguria: brongo, tiagallo, peregallo, felat; southern Italy: ruongo
Conger eel is one of the heaviest eels and is distinguishable from common eel (Anguilla anguilla) as it has a large upper jaw which hangs over the lower jaw, the pectoral fins are pointed, and the dorsal fin is further forward on the body. Conger eel is a saltwater fish which has no scales and can grow up to 3 meters in length and weigh up to 50 kilos. It requiresa special method in order to be skinned. The tail is full of bones so typically only the flesh from the head to the anal orifice is used. The flesh is very tasty but has a strong flavour and is fatty. It needs to be cooked slowly for a long time, typically in wine or tomato sauce. It is an indispensable ingredient in fish soup (cacciucco alla livornese) and pasta sauces and can be stewed (grongo in umido). It should not be grilled or fried. Raw conger eel blood is toxic.
Eel, Mediterranean sand (Cicerello) (Gymnammodytes cicerelus)
Regional names: Campania: aluzzetiello, Liguria: cicciarello / lusso / lussotto, Calabria: cicirello, Sicilia: cicirieddu, Sardegna: cixireddu
The Mediterranean sand eel is a saltwater fish that lives in sand banks close to shore along the coast from Liguria down to Calabria. It grows to about 18 cm in length but is normally 10 cm. It is fished in the spring. Mediterranean sand eel is floured and fried, sometimes marinated in vinegar.
Eelpout – See Burbot
Flounder, European (Passera pianuzza / Passera) (Platichthys flesus flesus)
Substitution: halibut, sole, turbot
The European flounder is a saltwater flatfish found throughout the Atlantic Ocean and can grow up to 50 cm in length. There is also the Adriatic flounder (passera pianuzza) (Platichthys flesus italicus) which lives in the Adriatic Sea. It can grow to 40cm in length. The meat is good quality but has less flavour than European plaice. It should be cooked gently over low heat. It can be stewed, poached, grilled (with its skin on), steamed, floured and fried whole, or breaded and pan-fried. It goes very well with butter and/or herbs.
Frog fish– See Frog fish
Gallinella– See Gurnard, tub
Gardon– See Fish: Roach
Garfish / Sea needle / Garpike (Aguglia) (Belone belone)
Substitution: Atlantic saury (Costardella / Gastodella) (Scomberesox saurus), needlefish, conger eel
Garfish is a saltwater fish that lives throughout the Mediterranean and is popular in Venice. They can grow up to 70 cm but are usually about 40 cm in length. It has a long, thin, silvery body with a long pointed bill. Garfish can be eaten all year round but are best from September to January. It is normally quite cheap. Its flesh is grey when raw but firm, white and flavourful when cooked. When cooked, the bones turn a green-blue colour so they are easy to distinguish and remove. The small ones are usually fried or cooked on the griddle and the large ones sautéed or stewed. It can also be cut, rolled up and speared with a skewer or with the fish’s bill.
Garpike – See Garfish
Garrick – See Leerfish
Ghiozzo – See Goby
Gilt-head bream (Orata) (Sparus aurata)
Substitution: dentex, red porgy, saddled sea bream, pandora, grey mullet
Gilt-head bream is a saltwater fish and one of the most prized fish in Italy. It can grow up to 50 cm, but is often not longer than 30cm in length, and weighs up to 10 kilos. This fish is distinguishable by the black and gold lines it has between its eyes and its nose. Wild gilt-head bream are less fatty than the farmed version as they get more exercise. There are some very good farmed gilt-head bream however. They are best eaten in the summer. The flesh should be firm and flavourful.
Prepare: Gilt-head bream weighing more than 1.5 kilos should be allowed to rest for 24 hours before eating, although if you purchase the fish from a market or shop, it will normally have already been rested for a sufficient amount of time.
Eat: It should be cooked simply so as to not overpower the delicate flavour of the fish. It can be cooked in many different manners such as baked (orate alla pugliese), baked in parchment paper (orate al cartoccio), boiled (orate alla barese), broiled, steamed, grilled (orate alla san Nicola), or baked in salt.
Gô – See Goby
Gobbione – See Gudgeon
Gobbo – See Gudgeon
Goby (Ghiozzo / Gô / Ghiozzo testone / Ghiozzo nero / Paganello) (Gobidi / Gobius cobitis / Gobius niger / Gobius paganellus)
Goby is a saltwater fish which lives in the northern Adriatic Sea and in lagoons in Venice where it is prized by Venetians. There are 2,000 species of goby. Most goby are not nice to eat but there are some varieties from the lagoons in Veneto which are good fried, broiled, in sweet and sour sauce (soar), in soups (brodetti del’alto Adriatico), and in risotto (risotto con i gô alla chioggiotta). Goby is sometimes served with polenta.
Giant goby (Ghiozzo testone) (Gobius cobitis)
Black goby (Ghiozzo nero / Ghiozzo comune) (Gobius niger)
Rock goby (Ghozzo paganello) (Gobius paganellus)
Goby, transparent (Rossetto) (Aphia minuta) is a small saltwater fish, about 5 cm long. It is deep-fried in fritters, in omelettes, or boiled and dressed in oil, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley.
Gorno– See Gurnard, tub
Grongo – See Eel, Conger
Grayling (Temolo) (Thymallus thymallus)
Grayling is a freshwater fish in the salmon family which lives in many of the rivers in northern Italy. Grayling can grow up to 50cm in length and weigh up to 1 kilo. In Italian, grayling is called “temolo” which refers to the herb thyme, as it is said the flesh smells of thyme. While its meat is prized, this fish is not found frequently for sale as it cannot be farmed and only lives in very clean water in the cold rivers in Piemonte. Grayling needs to be eaten as fresh as possible. It pairs well with butter, lardo, and lard. It can be boiled, fried, deep-fried, baked with hazelnuts, anchovy, and sage (temolo alle nocciole), stewed with wine, mushrooms, or black truffle, or roasted with pancetta, lardo, or prosciutto crudo.
Grey Mullet (Cefalo / Mugella) (Mugil cephalus)
Substitutions: gilt-head bream, sea bass
Regional names: Liguria: mussao, Marche: mugella
Grey mullet is a fish which lives in both saltwater and freshwater, and can be eaten all seasons of the year, although it is typically caught in spring and autumn. It is unrelated to red mullet, which is more highly prized. It ranges from 30-70 cm in length. The quality of the flesh will depend on the environment in which the fish lived. Grey mullet is sold fresh, frozen, smoked, and dried. The flesh has a good flavour and is firm but the roe of the mullet is the real delicacy, particularly in Sicilia and Sardegna where it is made into bottarga. The roe is expensive. The flesh can be grilled (cefalo alla griglia alla siciliana and cefalo alla griglia alla toscana), roasted (cefalo arrosto al’uso sardo), pan-fried, baked (cefalo in forno and cefalo all’uso delle isole veneziane), broiled, baked in parchment paper, stewed with herbs, or boiled. The small grey mullet is deep-fried or used in soups (brodetto dell’alto adriatico and cassola sarda). It pairs well with fennel.
Flathead mullet / Striped mullet (Volpina) (Mugil cephalus)
The flathead mullet has the fine flesh and the best roe for making bottarga. It is distinguishable because its eyes are covered by a membrane. It is often farmed so the quality can be controlled and can grow to a large size, although the wild flathead mullet is often more flavourful if it lived in clean water.
Golden grey mullet (Cefalo Dorato / Lotregano) (Liza aurata)
The golden grey mullet is distinguishable for its golden mark near its gills. It is better if caught further out at sea or is small. The small golden grey mullet can be grilled, pan roasted, or baked.
Leaping mullet (Verzelata / Musino) (Liza saliens)
The leaping mullet is a mediocre fish. It is distinguishable as it has small spots on its gills.
Thick-lipped grey mullet / Bluespot grey mullet (Bosega) (Chelon labrosus)
A much-prized fish along the Adriatic Sea, although the meat is less firm and flavourful than that of the flathead mullet or the golden grey mullet. It is distinguishable by having a gap in the jugular space on the bottom of the head between the two gills.
Thin-lipped grey mullet (Calamita / Caustelo) (Liza ramada)
Less prized than the thick-lipped grey mullet along the Adriatic Sea. It is distinguishable as it has a black mark near the base of its pectoral fin.
Grouper (Cernia) (Epinephelus)
Substitions: dentex, red scorpionfish, shi drum, large red gurnard or piper, mahi-mahi
This large saltwater fish is part of the sea bass family and lives in many places in the world including the Mediterranean Sea. A number of fish-farming organisations are searching for ways to farm grouper. The firm, delicately flavoured meat is excellent and has no bones. Freshly fished grouper weighing more than 1 kilo should be stored in the refrigerator before cooking (12 to 36 hours for up to 5 kilos), although those bought at the market or in a shop have likely already been stored for as sufficient amount of time. Because of the large size of the fish, it is usually cooked by cutting it into pieces, although smaller grouper can be boiled whole or baked in parchment paper. Tranches can be stewed with tomato (cernia in umido), roasted (cernia arrosto alla sarda), boiled, steamed, baked in parchment paper with herbs (cerna al cartoccio), baked, or grilled. The liver is also eaten.
Atlantic wreckfish (Dotto / Cernia di fondo) (Polyprion americanus) can grow up to 2 meters in length.
Dogtooth grouper (Cernia nera) (Epinephelus caninus) can grow up to 1.5 meters in length.
Dusky grouper (Cernia bruna / Guaza / Cernia marrone) (Epinephelus marginatus) lives in the Mediterranean Sea and is a species at risk so it should be consumed less. It is the most prized and well-known. It can grow up to 1.5 meters in length.
Goldblotch grouper (Cernia dorata) (Epinephelus alexandrines) can grow up to 90-100cm in length.
Guazza – See Grouper
Gudgeon (Gobbione/Gobbo) (Gobio gobio)
Gudgeon is a small freshwater fish which grows up to 15 cm in length. It is prized in Emilia. The small gudgeon is suitable for deep-frying and the large can be gratinéed.
Gurnard, tub (Capone gallinella / Gallinella / Coccio / Gurno) (Chelidonichthys lucernus)
Substitutes: grouper, red scorpionfish, stargazer
Gurnard is a saltwater fish best eaten in the spring, summer, and autumn. There are many types of fish in the Triglidi family to which gurnard belongs and it has many different names in different dialects. It has a large, bony head, a tapered red body with tiny scales and few bones. Gunard can grow up to 50 cm long. The most prized are the red gurnard and the piper. Because it has few bones, it can be filleted easily. The head is large however and accounts for 40% of its weight although the head and bones are very good for soup or broth. Gurnard is a staple in brodetto recipes (fish stew) along the Adriatic Sea.
Red gurnard / Cuckoo gurnard (Capone coccio / Capone imperial) (Triglia pini)
Regional names: Liguria: gallinella imperial / gallinetta / caussano / chèuffano / chèussano; Toscana: caviglia; Sicilia: tiega / tigieca / tirieza / tirinchiuni di fangu / cucciddu / cuccu; Puglia: capuane / capuni / cuoccio; Campania: cuoccio
Red gurnard grows to 20-40cm in length. Its flesh is very good- delicate in flavour and firm in texture. It can be boiled, baked (capone coccio al forno), or stewed.
Piper (Capone lira / Capone organo) (Triglia lyra)
Regional names: Marche: mazzolina / testolina; Toscana: gallinella lira; Liguria: gallina / tuscia; Abruzzo: testa; Puglia: teste / cuoccio / cuozzo; Friuli Venezia Giulia: turchei / turchetto; Veneto: turchetto; Lazio: coccio; Calabria: cocciu; Sicilia: cocciu/cucciu; Campania: cuoccio
Piper grow up to 25-40 cm in length and are typically fished during hot weather. Its flesh is very good- delicate in flavour and firm in texture. It can be boiled, baked, or stewed.
Streaked gurnard (Capone ubriaco / Capone lineato) (Triglia lineata)
Regional names: Toscana: pesce briaco / gallinetta / garagòlo / capone rapa / caviglia organo / corri-corri; Friuli Venezia Giulia: luserna / luzerna / testa dura / testa grossa; Sicilia: tirinchiuni di preti / turrarici; Lazio: capone di scoglio / capone turco; Puglia: capone panaricolo; Campania: curro-curro
Streaked gurnard grows to 25-40cm in length. Its meat is good, best stewed or in soups. Its meat is good, best stewed or in soups.
Tub gurnard (Capone gallinella) (Trigla lucerna)
Regional names: Marche: mazzola / testa grossa / testolina dell’occhio / capomazzo; Toscana: gallinella vera / capocchione; Liguria: galinetta / chèuffano / chèussano; Sardegna: gallinedda; Friuli Venezia Giulia: luzena; northeastern Italy: luserna / luzerna; Puglia: testa / capuane; Lazio: capone imperial / capone panaricolo; Sicilia: cocciu / cuòcceche; Calabria: cocciu verace; Campania: cuoccio fascianu / cuoccio riale / cuoccio volante
Tub gurnard grows up to 75 cm in length and is fished in the autumn. Its meat is good, best stewed or in soups.
Grey gurnard (Capone gurno / Gorno) (Eutrigla gurnardus) can grow up to 30-35cm in length. The meat is good, best stewed or in soups.
Gurno – See Gurnard, tub
Haberdine – See Cod
Hake (Nasello / Nasello argentato / Merluzzo argentato / Pesce lupo / Pesce prete) (Merluccius merluccius)
Substitution: blue whiting
Regional names: merluzzo
Hake is a saltwater fish that can be eaten all year round but is more intensely fished from February to May. It can grow up to 1 meter in length but is typically between 30 and 70 cm. If the hake weighs more than 700 grams, it needs to be held for 36 hours after fishing before eating; although if you buy it at a market or store it will likely have already been held for a sufficient amount of time. Hake can be purchased fresh or frozen and whole or in pieces. Do not buy frozen South American hake as it is vastly inferior. The pinkish meat is delicate, fragile, easily digestible, and has a subtle but pleasant flavour so it is often boiled or baked and fed to children. Be careful not to overcook or it will fall apart. It can be marinated and served as a starter, baked, grilled (nasello alla marchigiana) or minced for fish cakes. It can also be cooked in moist cooking methods like soup (nasello in brodetto), boiled, and steamed. Small or filleted hake can be deep-fried (naselli fritti a filetti).
Halibut (Halibut / Ippoglosso) (Hippoglossus ippoglossus)
Halibut is the largest of the flat fish and lives in the northern Atlantic Ocean. It can grow up to 3 meters in length and weigh up to 200 kilos. It is a saltwater fish prized for its delicious white meat. It is often sold in fillets rather than whole and is often frozen (although is vastly inferior to fresh as it is dry). Fresh fish should have pearly white flesh without any yellowish tinge and not a whiff of ammonia. The meat should be cooked gently over a low temperature. It can be steamed, stewed, poached, fried, or breaded and pan-fried.
Ipoglosso – See Halibut
John Dory / St. Pierre / Peter’s Fish (Pesce San Pietro / Sampietro / Pesce cetra / Pesce gallo) (Zeus faber)
Substitution: turbot, sole
John Dory is a flattish saltwater fish but is not precisely a flat fish as its face covers both sides. It has dark circles on its side said to be the marks of Saint Peter’s fingers (the name “San Pietro” means “Saint Peter” in English). It lives in the Mediterreanean and and grow up to 50 cm in length. The flesh is only 33% the whole fish so the meat is quite expensive. The skin is quite tough. The quality of the firm and flavourful flesh is one of the very best and is versatile in cooking, although optimal broiled. It can also be baked (san pietro alla carlina), steamed, stewed, poached, fried, used in soups, or breaded and pan-fried.
Lacerto – See Mackerel
Ladano – See Sturgeon, Adriatic
Lampuga– See Mahi-Mahi
Latterino – See Smelt, big-scale sand
Lavarello– See Whitefish, European
Leccia – See Leerfish
Leccia stella– See Pompano
Leerfish / Garrick (Leccia) (Lichia amia)
Leerfish is a saltwater fish found throughout the Mediterranean and in brackish lagoons. It can grow up to 2 meters in length and has a compressed body which can weigh up to 50 kilos. The firm flesh is flavourful. It can be served raw, thinly sliced and dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper or can be baked or steamed. Smaller fish can be grilled.
Limanda– See Fish: Sole, yellowfin
Loach, spined (Cobite) (Cobitis taenia)
Spined loach is a small, fleshy freshwater fish best deep-fried
Lotregano– See Grey mullet
Lucioperca – See Zander
Maccarello – See Mackerel
Mackerel (Sgombro / Maccarello / Lacerto) (Scomber scombrus)
Mackerel is best eaten in from November to March. Mackerel is one of the most well-known blue saltwater fish and it has no scales. It should be a minimum of 18 cm and can grow up to 50 cm long, but is more commonly up to 25 cm in length. It is very similar to Atlantic chub mackerel (Lanzard) (Scomber colias) which has less consistent streaking and a yellowish tinge. It is sold fresh, frozen, smoked, pickled, and tinned. Because mackerel is an oily fish, it needs to be eaten extremely fresh as it is highly perishable. It is not highly prized in Italy. Mackerel can be marinated, boiled, fried, deep-fried, stewed, grilled (sgombri alla griglia), baked with tomato or white wine (sgombro al forno), sautéed, pan-fried, or cooked in ragù. Pickled mackerel is best stuffed with raw tomatoes and dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper.
Mackerel, Atlantic horse (Suro / Sgombro bastardo) (Trachurus trachurus)
Regional names: sauro, sauru, sorello, sugaro, sugherello
Atlantic horse mackerel is a saltwater fish in the same family as the greater amberjack. It can grow up to 40 cm and has whitish hazelnut coloured meat which is lean and delicate compared to mackerel. It has a more subtle flavour than mackerel and is more easily digestible. Atlantic horse mackerel has tiny spines near the tail which should be cut off with a knife before preparing. It is good raw, fried, grilled, baked, baked in parchment paper, and fried and marinated in vinegar and aromatics (a scapece, sauri fritti all’agliata).
Macrocefalo – See Cod
Mahi-Mahi / Dolphin fish (Lampuga / Corifena cavallina) (Coryphaena hippurus)
Substitutions: grouper, sea bass
Regional names: Sicilia and Puglia: capone imperial / cirfena / indoradda / lampuca / piscicapuni; Liguria: indorada; Veneto, Toscana, and Lazio: catalusso / cataluzzo; Campania: pesce pampao
Mahi-mahi is a popular saltwater fish in southern Italy and is found in northern Italy at the end of the summer (although it is best eaten in the winter and autumn). It has a hump on its head and when the fish has died, it turns a yellow grey colour. It can grow up to 1 meter in length. Mahi-mahi is cooked with tomatoes, grilled in tranches, or baked. It is best baked in parchment paper, grilled, or broiled and served with salmoriglio sauce.
Mariah – See Burbot
Marmora – See Sea bream, striped
Meagre, brown (Corvina) (Sciaena umbra)
Substitution: sea bass, shi drum
Regional names: corvine di sasso, corvine di scoglio, corvine cola
The brown meagre is a saltwater fish in the same family as the croaker, which it also resembles. It has a golden brown silvery body and grows to 50 cm in length. It is versatile in cooking. Its flesh is considered one of the best and is delicate, delicious, and firm. It can be cooked in many ways such as encrusted in salt and baked, fried, steamed, or baked in parchment paper. It is best boiled, filleted and fried in butter with vegetables and white wine, braised with aromatic vegetables and white wine, or used in soup.
Melù – See Whiting, blue
Menola – See Picarel
Merluzetto – See Cod
Merluzzo argentato – See Hake
Merluzzo atlantico – See Cod
Merluzzo giallo – See Pollack
Monkfish / Angler / Frog fish (Rospo / Coda di rospo / Rana pescatrice) (Lophius piscatorius)
Regional names: Toscana: boldrò; Liguria: boldrò / budegasso / bùdego; Veneto and Sicilia: diavolo di mare; central Italy: pesce rospo; giuranna di mari / magu
Monkfish is a saltwater fish, distinct as it has a large head covered with ridges and spines and its tapered body has no scales. It can grow up to 2 meters in length and weigh over 45 kilos. It is a highly prized fish particularly in Venice. It is best eaten in the winter. The meat is not very perishable and loses little in the first 36 hours after fishing. The firm and elastic flesh is very good and similar to lobster. The fish is eaten without its skin and there is a particular method for removing the skin. See the guide on how to skin a monkfish here. The tail can be broiled, baked (coda di rospo in forno, pescatrice alla romagnola), stewed, grilled, poached in court-bouillon and served with olive oil and lemon juice. The stomach and the liver of the monkfish are also eaten pan-fried (crostini di fegato di pescatrice). The head is good for making soup. The head also has tiny fragments of meat throughout which are good for making ragù.
Mormora– See Sea bream, striped
Mugella – See Grey Mullet
Mullet, Red / Mullet, Striped (Triglia di fango/Barbone) (Mullus barbatus)
Substitution: striped red mullet
Red mullet is a saltwater fish and one of the two species of mullet in the Mediterranean (and is unrelated to grey mullet). The more prized species, the striped red mullet, has dark stripes on the anterior dorsal fin, which the red mullet does not. The red mullet also has two scales on its cheeks while the striped red mullet has three. Red mullet can also be very good if the environment it lives in were clean. It is best eaten in the winter and autumn. They should be a minimum of 11 cm in length but grow up to 20 cm. Look for a vivid pink colour to determine its freshness. If the whole fish is bent sideways, it has been thawed from frozen. About 60% of the fish is meat. It is highly perishable and the meat extremely delicate so it needs less cooking than other fish. It is versatile in cooking methods, except for boiling. The small ones are deep-fried. The large ones, about 20 cm in length have fewer bones and can be stewed (triglie con i capperi, triglie alla livornese), baked (triglie alla genovese, triglie col proscuitto), grilled, or deep-fried. Its liver is sometimes left in while cooking to add flavour. It pairs well with fennel.
Mullet, Striped Red (Triglia di scoglio) (Mullus surmuletus)
Substitution: red mullet
Striped red mullet is one of the most prized saltwater fish. It is a type of goatfish and one of two species in the Mediterranean (and is unrelated to grey mullet). The other, less-prized species, is the red mullet or striped mullet (triglia di fango / barbone) (Mullus barbatus). The striped red mullet has dark stripes on the anterior dorsal fin which the red mullet does not. The striped red mullet also has three scales on its cheeks while the red mullet has two. It is best eaten in the winter and autumn. They should be a minimum of 11 cm in length but grow up to 40 cm in length. Look for a vivid red colour to determine its freshness. If the whole fish is bent sideways, it has been thawed from frozen. About 60% of the fish is meat. It is highly perishable and the meat extremely delicate so it needs less cooking than other fish. Striped red mullet is cooked without being eviscerated as it lends an aroma to the preparation. It has a lot of bones, particularly the smaller ones, so it is often filleted with the bones removed. The bones and the head are excellent for soups and broths. It is versatile in cooking methods, except for boiling. Mullet is good in pasta sauces, broiled, stewed (triglie con i capperi, triglie alla livornese), baked (triglie alla genovese, triglie col proscuitto), baked in parchment paper (triglie al cartoccio), baked in salt (triglie nel sale), grilled, or in soup. The small ones can be deep-fried. Its liver is sometimes left in while cooking to add flavour. It pairs well with fennel.
Musino– See Grey mullet
Nasello – See Hake
Needlefish, agujon (Aguglia maggiore) (Tylosurus acus)
Agujon needlefish is a long, thin, silvery saltwater fish with a long bill. It can grow up to 1.5 meters in length. The meat is good and the central bones are coloured for easy removal. Agujon needlefish tends to be priced quite low. It needs to be cooked over low heat so that the skin does not burn before the meat is cooked. For this reason, it is normally breaded to protect the skin before being cooked. Needlefish is usually fried or cooked on the griddle but sometimes is stewed.
Occhiata Sea Bream, saddled – See Sea Bream, saddled
Occhialone – See Sea bream
Ombrina– See Shi drum
Orata – See Gilthead bream
Paganello – See Goby
Pagello– See Sea bream
Pagello, bastardo – See Sea Bream, axillary
Pagello fragolino – Pandora
Pagello mormora – See Sea bream, striped
Pagro – Porgy, red
Palamita – See Tuna
Palombo– See Shark
Pandora (Pagello fragolino) (Pagellus erythrinus)
Substitution: gilt-head bream, sea bream
Regional names: fragolino
The pandora is a saltwater fish which is best eaten in the winter and spring. It is one of the finest types of sea bream to eat and can be found throughout the Mediterranean. It grows to between 30-60 cm in length. The white flesh is delicate and is versatile in cooking method. It can be used in soups, baked (pagello fragolino al filetto di pomodoro), baked in parchment paper, baked in salt crust, used in soups, used in stews with tomato, steamed, boiled, or grilled with the scales on.
Papalina – See Sprat
Passera– See Flounder, European
Passera pianuzza – See Flounder, European
Pasta d’acciuga – See Anchovy paste
Perca – See Perch
Perch / European perch / Redfin perch / English perch (Pesce Persico / Perca/ Persico reale) (Perca fluviatilis)
Substitution: black bass/largemouth bass (persico trota) (Micropterus salmoides), zander
Perch is one of the most prized freshwater fish in Italy and lives in lakes in Lombardia, Veneto, Umbria, and Lazio. Perch can be up to 45cm long with a compressed olive green and dark body, a black dorsal fin, a more lightly coloured belly, and reddish orange pelvic and anal fins. It is sold fresh or frozen but is best eaten as fresh as possible. Perch is usually filleted and then floured and deep-fried, stewed, grilled (carbonaretti sui sarmenti), used to stuff crepes or pasta, breaded and pan-fried, or pan-fried with butter and sage (filetti di persico aromatizzati alla salvia). A traditional dish is perch filets with risotto (comasca dei filetti di persico col risotto).
Persico reale– See Perch
Persico sole – See Pumpkinseed sunfish
Pesce bandiera – See Scabbardfish, silver
Pesce castagna – See Pomfret
Pesce cetra– See John Dory
Pesce gallo – See John Dory
Pesce gatto – See Catfish
Pesce lucerna– See Fish: Stargazer, Atlantic
Pesce lupo – See Hake or Sea bass
Pesce persico – See Perch
Pesce pettine– See Wrasse, cleaver
Pesce pilota – See Pilot fish
Pesce prete – See Hake or Stargazer, Atlantic
Pesce ragno – See Weever
Pesce San Pietro– See John Dory
Pesce sciabola– See Scabbardfish, silver
Pesce spada – See Swordfish
Pesce spatola– See Scabbardfish, silver
Pesce serra – See Bluefish
Peter’s Fish – See John Dory
Pezzogna – See Sea bream
Picarel (Zerro / Menola) (Centracanthus cirrus / Spicara smaris / Spicara maena)
Regional names: zerlo, zero
Picarel is a saltwater fish which can be eaten all year-round but is fished more intensively in the spring. It is particularly loved in Puglia and Liguria. There are three species of picarel which are in the same family: curled picarel (zerro) (centracanthus cirrus), picarel (menola) (spicara smaris), and blotched picarel (menola) (spicara maena). They grow to about 20 cm in length. The blotched picarel is the more prized of the three. Small picarel is optimal deep-fried but it can also be preserved in salt and covered with olive oil and vinegar. Large picarel is good for soup.
Pigo (Pigo) (Rutilus pigus)
Pigo is a type of roach and is a freshwater fish living in Italy and Switzerland. It can grow up to 50 cm in length and its meat is good for cooking. It is sold dried or fresh. It is grilled, made into pâté, fried, and deep-fried and marinated with aromatics and vinegar. In Lake Como, it is also salted and dried.
Pike (Luccio) (Esox lucius)
Pike is a freshwater fish found all over Europe in lakes and rivers. It can grow up to 1.5 meters in length. The meat is one of the most prized of the freshwater fish, particularly because it is relatively rare. Although pike lives in many regions in Italy, Lombardia has the most recipes for pike. The best pike is considered to be from Umbria, Lazio, and Lombardia. Small whole pike is better tasting than the large pike sold in pieces because large pike is more likely to be dry and tough. It is difficult to clean because it has forked bones that are difficult to remove, particularly for fish weighing less than 3 kilos. It can also be difficult to scale so pour boiling water over it to scale more easily. Pieces of pike benefit from being marinated to soften them before being fried or grilled. The firm, flavourful meat is usually boiled (luccio alla barcaiola, luccio in consa), baked, poached (luccio in salsa), stewed, fried (luccio fritto), or made into meatballs (luccio alla gardesana). In Lombardia and Veneto, pike is often eaten with polenta. The sperm sac and eggs are slightly toxic.
Pilchard- See Sardine
Pilot fish (Pesce pilota) (Naucrates ductor)
Regional names: fanfolo, infanfolo,’nfanfulo, pisci d’ummra
Pilot fish are carnivorous saltwater fish and often live with together with sharks, swimming in front of them as though guiding them (thus the name pilot fish). They live in the Mediterranean Sea and can grow up to 70 cm long, although are typically 30 cm long. The meat has a distinct flavour and is not very firm. It needs to be eaten within 24 hours after being caught otherwise the skin develops a strong odour. It is stewed with tomatoes and capers, made into a ragù to dress pasta, or breaded and cooked with salmoriglio sauce.
Plaice, European (Platessa) (Pleuronectes platessa)
European plaice is a saltwater flatfish, which lives in the Atlantic Ocean and grows up to 90 cm in length. It is brown with red flecks. Plaice is prized for its delicate meat and is sold frozen and fresh. Small plaice can be fried skin on. Large plaice can be grilled, boiled, steamed or baked in salt with their skins on, to be removed after cooking. It is a good fish to serve to children because it is easily digestible and has a mild flavour.
Platessa– See Plaice, European
Pollack, European / Pollack, Atlantic (Merluzzo giallo / Pollak) (Pollachius pollachius)
Pollack is actually a type of codfish, which is at risk and consumption should be reduced. It has delicate white flakey flesh with a yellowish tinge. It is sold as fillets both fresh and frozen. It is boiled, baked, stewed, or breaded and fried. It is not typically grilled or roasted.
Pollak – See Pollack
Pomfret (Pesce castagna) (Brama brama)
Regional names: Sardinia: carraginu; Sicilia: fatula / saracu impiriali; Veneto: ociada bastarda
Pomfret is a saltwater fish with a flattened body which can grow to between 30-80 cm in length. It is a greyish silver colour when alive but turns almost black when dead. It has good quality meat, which is best cooked filleted and fried. It can also be boiled, broiled, baked, grilled, or braised with onion and parsley.
Pompano (Leccia stella) (Trachinotus ovatus)
Pompano is a pearly white coloured saltwater fish with a long forked tail and black marks on the ends and the dorsal and anal fins. It lives throughout the Mediterranean Sea and can grow up to 70 cm in length. It is best eaten in the spring. It has excellent delicate, white, compact flesh, which is best baked, grilled, or pan-fried.
Pond perch – See Pumpkinseed sunfish
Porgy, red (Pagro / Pagro mediterraneo) (Pagrus pagrus)
Substitution: dentex, gilt-head bream
The red porgy is a saltwater fish with a rosy silver body. It can grow up to 1 meter in length, but is normally 30-60 cm. Red porgy is typically fished in the months with hot weather. It has excellent white meat, which is firm and flavourful but is slightly inferior to dentex as the meat is less firm. It can be served raw. It is versatile in cooking and can be baked, stuffed, grilled, cooked on the griddle, or baked in parchment paper.
Potassolo– See Whiting, blue
Pumpkinseed sunfish / Pond perch (Persico sole) (Lepomis gibbosus)
Pumpkinseed sunfish originate from North America but are common in Italy where they are considered an infestation. This freshwater fish can grow up to 20 cm in length. The meat has a lot of bones so the small ones are best deep-fried and eaten whole. Large pumpkinseed sunfish are boned and the meat used to make meatballs.
Ricciola– See Amberjack, greater
Rana pescatrice – See Frog fish
Razorfish, pearly – See Wrasse, cleaver
Roach / Roach, south European / Rovella (Rovella, Gardon) (Rutilus rubilio, Rutilus aula, Rutilus rutilus)
Roach is a freshwater fish living in rivers and lakes in Italy. It is suitable for deep-frying. Large roach can be baked or fried. The eggs are edible and turn from green to red in colour when cooked.
Roach (Gardon) (Rutilus rutilus) lives in Lake Maggiore and grows up to 40 cm in length. Its meat is not very good and it is full of bones. It is best for making into paté or meatballs.
Roach (Rovella) (Rutius aula) lives in Italy, Switzerland, Croatia and Slovenia.
South European Roach / Rovela (Rovella) (Rutilus rubilio) lives in rivers and lakes in Italy.
Rombo chiodato – See Turbot
Rombo liscio – See Brill
Rombo soaso – See Brill
Rospo– See Frog fish
Rossetto – See Goby
Rovella – See Roach
Salmerino – See Char, arctic
Salmo carpa – See Carpione
Salmon (Salmone) (Salmo salar)
Substitution: char, arctic
Salmon is a very popular saltwater or freshwater fish (depending on the stage of their life) all over the world as its meat is economical, versatile in cooking method, and is easily prepared. For these reasons, wild salmon has been overfished. European salmon can grow to 1.5 meters in length, but more typically up to 1 meter. Wild salmon’s texture and flavour are not comparable to that of farmed salmon, although farmed salmon is sustainable (although an undesirable side effect is that farmed Atlantic salmon have escaped from fish farms and have altered the genetic pool of wild Pacific salmon). The best quality salmon is wild salmon, which has lived at sea for 1-2 years and has had enough food to develop fat which softens the meat. A salmon can be 60-80 cm in length and are fished only in the spring. Salmon fished in the winter and are 3 years old, have meat which is less delicate and soft. Salmon between 2 and 3 years old have inferior meat. Salmon meat is generally soft and delicate, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are excellent in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, and is flavourful. Salmon is sold fresh, frozen, tinned, or smoked. The salmon’s head accounts for 20% of its total weight. Choose whole salmon which is short and rounded with a small head and broad shoulders. Choose pieces of salmon which have fat between the flakes and don’t buy soft, greyish, oily or watery salmon. The best salmon are from Scotland, Ireland, Norway, or the Chinook/King salmon or Sockeye varieties from North America. Salmon has not historically been part of Italian cuisine so there are not traditional recipes. It is excellent cooked anyway but is best smoked, marinated, raw, poached, baked, grilled, pan-fried, or broiled.
Salmone – See Salmon
Salt cod – See Cod
Sampietro – See John Dory
Sand Steenbras – See Sea bream, striped
Sandra– See Zander
Sarago– See Sea bream, white
Sarda– See Sardine
Sardella– See Sardine
Sardine– See Sardine
Sardine / European pilchard (Sarda / Sardina / Sardella / Acciuga) (Sardina pilchardus)
Sardine is a freshwater or saltwater fish which should be a minimum of 11 cm and can grow up to 15 to 20 cm long. The very young sardines are sold as whitebait (see below). Look for sardines that have a vivid colour on their body and eyes and have a plump abdomen, which is not soft or sunken. It is used frequently in Italian cooking and can be eaten all season of the year, although are best in the spring. It can be preserved in vinegar, salt, or oil, sometimes with the addition of lemon juice or tomato. Sardina typically refers to sardines preserved in oil whereas sarda normally indicates fresh sardines. Sardines are best broiled or barbecued and sprinkled with lemon juice. They can also be served raw, deep-fried (sarde a beccafico alla catanese), baked (sarde alla cetrarese, sarde ala napoletana), fried (sarde allinguate), in sweet and sour sauce (sarde in saor), pickled (sardine en consa, scabeccio), stuffed (sarde a beccafico, sarde farcite), in pasta (pasta con sarde), grilled (sarde alla griglia) or cooked in ragù.
Sardinella, round / Sardine, gilt / Sardine, Spanish (Alaccia) (Sardinella aurita)
Round sardinella is a saltwater fish which prefers mild temperatures so are found in more temperate areas. It is similar to, but not as good as, the sardine as it also has a higher fat content, is larger (up to 30 cm in length), and deteriorates quickly once caught. Round sardinella can be found fresh or preserved in salt or olive oil. It is deep-fried, baked, and cooked in ragù.
Sargo – See Sea bream, white
Scabbardfish, silver (Pesce sciabola / Pesce spatola / Pesce bandiera) (Lepidopus caudatus)
Regional names: pesce fiamma, pesce lama, pesce vela
Silver scabbard fish is a saltwater fish that lives in the Tyrrhenian Sea and grows up to 2 meters in length. It has a long, silvery tape-like body. It is fished in the spring, autumn, and winter. The meat is greatly prized, although economical in price, and very flavourful. All along the western coast of Italy the silver scabbardfish is cut into pieces and fried, grilled, stewed, pan-fried, or braised in tomato sauce. It can be cut in tranches or filleted. It can also be cut into fillets rolled around a stuffing made of bread, cheese, oil, and parsley, and then baked or roasted.
Scorfano – See Fish: Scorpionfish
Scorpionfish (Scorfano) (Decentrarchus labrax)
Substitutions: grouper, red gurnard or piper, weever
Scorpionfish is a saltwater fish and there are many species of scorpionfish in the Mediterranean. The body has many venomous ridges and spines so be careful when cleaning this fish and wear gloves. This type of fish is usually cooked using a moist cooking method and is particularly good in soups, stews, and sauces. Large scorpionfish is normally boiled or baked.
Red scorpion fish (Scorfano rosso / Scorfano maggiore) (Scorpaena scrofa)
Regional names: Liguria and Toscana: cappone, cipuddazza, pescio capon, scarpena rossa
Red scorpionfish grow to 50 cm in length. The firm and flavourful fish is of excellent quality. The large ones are good boiled or stewed with tomatoes. The small ones are used in many types of soups (cacciucco and brodetto). Broth made from red scorpionfish is one of the best in Italy. The cheeks are particularly tasty.
Black scorpion fish (Scorfano nero / Scorfano Bruno / Scorfano rascassa) (Scorpaena porcus)
Regional names: pesce capone, scarpena negra, scrofanu niuro
Black scorpion fish grow to 30cm in length. Black scorpion fish is often used in soups. It can also be cooked with oil, garlic, tomato, parsley or basil to make a sauce for spaghetti or linguine.
Sea bass / Sea perch (Branzino / Spigola / Pesce lupo) (Dicentrarchus labrax)
Substitution: brown meagre, shi drum, grey mullet, mahi-mahi
Regional names: lupu de mari, spina, spinola, ragno
Sea bass is a saltwater fish which lives in the Mediterranean Sea and can live in freshwater, often in salt marshes and river deltas. While it can grow up to 1 meter in length, it is often not longer than 50-60 cm. It can weigh up to 10 kilos but is normally between 800 grams and 3 kilos. Farmed sea bass is more common, averaging 250-350 grams in size. Some of the farmed sea bass can be as good as wild sea bass but is typically less flavourful. Wild sea bass has a grey-black back and pales silver sides, which the farmed do not. Sea bass is best eaten in the spring, summer, and autumn. Together with gilt-head bream, sea bass is the most prized fish in Italy as its delicate but firm meat is also flavourful and versatile in cooking method. Sea bass can also be preserved easily for 48 hours in the refrigerator. It has about 50% meat on a whole fish. Sea bass can be served raw (spigola al cruda). It is very good encrusted in salt and baked (branzino in sale), fried, steamed (filetto di branzino alla fonduta di pomodoro), poached (spigola alle alghe), baked (spigola al forno), griddled (spigola ai ferri), or baked in parchment paper (spigola al cartoccio). It pairs well with fennel. The liver of large sea bass is prized and can be pan-fried with butter and sage.
Sea bream (Pagello / Occhialone / Pezzogna) (Pagellus bogaraveo / Pagello centrodontus)
Sea bream is a saltwater fish distinguishable by its large eyes and for a large black mark above the pectoral fin at the beginning of the lateral line. It is found all over the Mediterranean Sea. It is best eaten in the winter and spring. Sea bream should be a minimum of 33 cm and can grow to about 70 cm in length. Suitable for baking, roasting, pan-frying, used in soups and stews. Large sea bream can be broiled.
Sea bream, axillary (Pagello bastardo) (Pagellus acarne)
Substitution: sea bream, pandora
Axillary sea bream is a saltwater fish with a rosy silver coloured elongated body. It grows up to 30 cm in length. It is less prized than the pandora or the sea bream. Axillary sea bream is suitable for moist cooking methods. Dry cooking methods will dry out the meat so it should only be boiled, braised, or used in soups and stews.
Sea bream, black (Tanuta / Cantaro) (Spondyliosoma cantharus)
Substitution: white sea bream, gilt-head bream,
Regional names: cantarella, cantaro, sarago, bastardo
Black sea bream is a saltwater fish, which can grow up to 50 cm in length. It is fished all year-round. The meat is good and similar to white sea bream. It can be boiled or cooked on the griddle and served with a sauce.
Sea bream, saddled (Occhiata) (Oblada melanura)
Substitution: gilt-head bream
Saddled sea bream is a saltwater fish, oval in shape with a greyish silvery blue coloured body with stripes and a black mark at the beginning of the tail. It can grow up to 25-30 cm and can be eaten year-round. The white flesh is firm and has a good flavour but needs to be eaten very fresh or else loses its aroma. It can be broiled, baked, or used in soups and stews, but is best grilled. Small saddled sea bream can be fried.
Sea bream, striped / Sand steenbras (Marmora / Mormora / Pagello mormora) (Lithognathus mormyrus)
Substitutions: gilt-head bream
Striped sea bream is a saltwater fish, which can be eaten every season of the year, but is more intensively fished in the summer and autumn. It is found all over the Mediterranean Sea. Striped sea bream is one of the best fish in the Mediterranean Sea and is as good as, albeit is less known than, sea bass, dentex, or gilt-head bream. It should be no smaller than 20 cm and can grow up to 50 cm in length. The meat is very good for eating. Suitable for baking (mormore al forno) and grilling.
Sea bream, white (Sarago / Sargo) (Diplodus)
Substitution: black sea bream
Regional names: saraco, sparo
White sea bream is a saltwater fish, which is best eaten in the winter and summer. There are many different species of this category of sea bream so they vary in length from 25 to 50 cm. The meat is good if very fresh. This fish loses a lot of its flavour even within hours of fishing. White sea bream is typically cooked on a griddle, grill, roasted, or baked and served with a sauce (samoriglio). It can also be broiled or spit-roasted. The small ones can be fried. The other types of sea bream can be used in soup (see below).
Annular sea bream (Sarago sparaglione / Sarago dell’anelo / Sparaglione / Sparlotto / Carlino) (Diplodus annularis) is small (up to 20 cm), not highly prized, and is yellow and silver in colour. It can be used in soup.
Common two-banded sea bream (Sarago fasciato / Sarago del Salviani) (Diplodus vulgaris) is small but has good meat.
Sharpsnout bream (Sarago pizzuto) (Diplodus puntazzo) has a black ring on its tail and has the most inferior meat. It can be used in soup.
White sea bream (Sarago maggiore / Sarago rigato/Sarago sparetto) (Diplodus sargus) can grow up to 40 cm in length and weigh up to 2 kilos. Its meat is the most prized amongst these sea bream.
Zebra sea bream (Sarago farone / Sarago fasciato) (Diplodus cervinus) can be used in soup.
Sea needle – See Garfish
Sea Perch- See Sea bass
Shad / Alosa agone (Agone) (Alosa fallax lacustris)
Regional names: sardena
Shad is a freshwater fish that lives in alpine lakes. It is 25-30 cm in length. The meat is rather inferior and is needs to be scaled carefully, has a lot of bones, and needs to be washed more than other fish. It is sold fresh, dried and tinned (missoltini/salacca) or dried and salted. Fresh shad are best in the spring. It is a fatty fish so is suitable for grilling. Small shad is suitable for deep-frying. It is often eaten in Veneto and Lombardia with polenta. The eggs are sold fresh, frozen, and tinned and are considered a delicacy by some.
Sgombro – See Mackerel
Sgombro bastardo– See Mackerel, Atlantic horse
Shark (Squalo / Palombo / Vitello di mare, Smeriglio, Spinarolo, Squalo volpe, Verdesca) (Mustelus mustelus, Lamna nasus / Isurus oxyrinchus, Squalus acantias, Alopias vupinus, Prionace glauca)
Substitutes: ray, tuna
Sharks live in the Mediterranean Sea and can grow up to 4 meters in length. Shark is not commonly eaten in Italy anymore because they are an important species for keeping the environment in balance, its meat is full of heavy metals, and its flesh is neutral in flavour. Shark is typically skinned and sold in tranches. It is difficult to determine the freshness once the skin has been removed. Shark sold with the skin on will take on a strong off-putting ammonia smell when it goes off. Shark can be marinated in oil and broiled or baked or used in soups and stews. It can also be boiled and served with a marinade (burrida).
Blue shark (Verdesca) (Pionace glauca) is more prized for its fin than for its meat, which is difficult to digest. It can grow up to 3 meters so its meat is sold in tranches. It can be distinguished from smooth-hound shark by its vertebrae which radiates like a bicycle wheel whereas the former has an eight pointed cross in four “V” shapes with the points intersecting in the centre.
Porbeagle, Short-fin mako shark (Smeriglio) (Lamna nasus / Isurus oxyrinchus) are both mackerel sharks which live in the Mediterranean Sea and grow up to 4 meters in length. They are sometimes labelled as swordfish or smooth-hound shark but the spine is smaller than swordfish. It has the highest quality meat of all the sharks.
Smooth-hound shark (Palombo) (Mustelus mustelus)
The smooth-hound shark can grow up to 1.5-2 meters in length. Its flesh is light pink in colour and it is sold in tranches, sometimes erroneously marked as swordfish. The shape of the tranche is different than that of swordfish though and you can more easily pierce the spine with a knife as the shark has more cartilage. The spine has an eight pointed cross in four “V” shapes with the points intersecting in the centre. The meat is easy to prepare as it comes in tranches, is cheap, and is not highly perishable as it can be kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours. It can be roasted, grilled, fried (palombo in cotoletta all’uso Milanese and palombo coi piselli), or baked. There are two types:
Black-spotted smooth-hound shark (Palomo punteggiato) (Mustelus punctulatus)
Starry smooth-hound shark (Palombo stellate) (Mustelus asterias)
Spiny dogfish / Spurdog / Mud shark / Piked dogfish (Spinarolo) (Squalus acanthias) grow up to 1.5 meters in length and weigh up to 12 kilos. It tends to be sold in tranches. Its flesh is quite tough.
Thresher shark (Squalo volpe) (Alopias vulpinus) live in the Mediterranean Sea and can grow up to 6 meters in length. Its meat has a decent flavour.
Shi drum (Ombrina) (Umbrina cirrosa)
Substitution: sea bass
Shi drum is a saltwater fish, which can grow up to 50 cm in length. There are many different species of shi drum, which live in many different places including the Mediterranean Sea. It is intensively farmed. It has a delicate white flesh, which is flavourful, compact and highly prized. Shi drum is sold fresh or dried and smoked. The most prized species has a gold coloured mouth and is called “boccadoro”. Shi drum can be used in soup (ombrina a brodetto) or stewed.
Siluro – See Catfish
Smelt, big-scale sand (Latterino) (Atherina boyeri)
Regional names: acquadella, alicetta, angela, ciciniello, muscione
This is a small fresh and marine water fish, which grows up to 10 cm in length, but the most prized is no more than 4 cm. It is deep-fried whole, baked (latterini in tortiera), or marinated (aquadelle/latterini marinati) and served as a starter.
Smeriglio – See Shark
Sogliola – See Sole
Sole / Dover sole / Black sole (Sogliola) (Solea vulgaris)
Substitutions: John Dory, turbot
Regional names: lengua, sfogia, sfogio, sfogliola
Sole is a saltwater flatfish, which is best eaten in the summer. There are many species in the sole family, some more prized than others. The most prized is the common sole (sogliola commune) (solea vulgaris). Sole should be a minimum of 20 cm and rarely is longer than 50 cm in length. It is prized for the refined quality of their meat, which is pinkish white, firm but soft, delicate, and flavourful. When the sole is no longer fresh, the skin on the side without the eyes tends to come off easily. It is impossible to test the freshness of filleted sole. Sole is 45% meat and is still fresh within 24 hours of fishing (and in fact taste better 24 hours after being fished). Small sole can be fried with their skin on. Large sole can be grilled, breaded and deep-fried, cooked in tomato sauce, pan-fried with butter or olive oil, cooked on the griddle with its skin on (sogliole ai ferri all’anconetana), sautéed (sogliole alle olive), poached in court-bouillon, fried, baked with butter and white wine, baked, roasted, steamed or baked in salt with their skins on, to be removed after cooking. Sometimes only the dark, more leathery skin is removed. When cooking sole using a moist cooking method, the cooking liquid is reserved, as is the spine and the head to make soup or broth.
Common sole (Sogliola comune) (Solea vulgaris) can grow up to 45 cm in length and is the most prized of the types of sole. It is distinguished by a black mark on the end of the right pectoral fin.
Sand sole (Sogliola del orro) (Solea lascaris) grows up to 35 cm in length and has a nostril on its blind side.
Adriatic sole (Sogliola adriatica) (Solea impar) grows up to 25 cm in length and has a black mark in the centre of its body and a white border.
Klein’s sole (Sogliola turca) (Solea kleini) grows up to 35 cm in length and the anal and dorsal fins are edged in black.
Senegalese sole (Sogliola Senegalese) (Solea senegalensis) grows up to 50 cm in length and has small blue dots on its top side.
Sole, yellowfin/Lemon sole (Limanda) (Limanda aspera)
The yellowfin sole is a saltwater flatfish, which lives in the north Pacific Ocean and grows up to 50 cm in length. It is sold in frozen fillets in Italy, which are inferior to fresh. Yellowfin sole should be eaten as fresh as possible. It is relatively inexpensive and has a neutral flavour and is considered slightly superior to plaice. It is best filleted, breaded, and fried, pan-fried with butter or olive oil, cooked on the griddle with its skin on, sautéed, poached in court-bouillon, fried, baked with butter and white wine, or steamed.
Spearfish, Mediterranean (Aguglia imperiale) (Tetrapturus belone)
This saltwater fish is similar to marlin and can grow to more than 2 meters in length. It is found in Sicilia. Spearfish is highly prized. It can be pan-fried or baked.
Spigola – See Sea bass
Spinarolo– See Shark
Sprat (Spratto/Papalina) (Sprattus sprattus)
Regional names: saraghina, sarda papalina
Sprat is a saltwater fish that lives throughout the Adriatic Sea. It is similar to a sardine, as it is quite an oily fish and deteriorates quickly, but it is less flavoursome. In comparison to a sardine, a sprat has a shorter body, and measures between 10 to 15 cm. It is fished all year-round, but more intensively in the spring and autumn. It is breaded and deep-fried, grilled, and griddled. It can be sold fresh or preserved in oil.
Spratto– See Sprat
Squalo– See Shark
Squalo volpe– See Shark
St. Pierre – See John Dory
Stargazer, Atlantic (Pesce prete / Pesce lucerna) (Uranoscopus scaber)
Substitutes: tub gurnard
Regional names: boca in cao, bocca in cava, boca in cielo, buccuni, cac, chiachia, cozzolo, lucerna, mesoro, prete, toti, uranoscopo
The stargazer is a brown saltwater fish with a large mouth and eyes. It can grow up to 30 cm in length. Its delicate white flesh is firm and flavourful and perfect for use in soup (brodetto) or stew. Stargazer can be boiled or stewed.
Stockfish – See Cod
Stoccafisso – See Cod
Storione – See Sturgeon, Adriatic
Sturgeon, Adriatic (Storione cobice) (Acipenser naccarii)
Adriatic sturgeon lives in the Adriatic and travels to the Po River to reproduce. It can grow up to 2 meters in length and has no scales. Adriatic sturgeon is less prized than White sturgeon which lives in Eastern Europe. Wild Adriatic sturgeon is at risk and should be consumed less. Wild sturgeon is best eaten in the spring. There is now farmed sturgeon, although the fish are normally less than 3 kilos in weight. Sturgeon meat is of excellent quality- light coloured, firm, and not overly fatty. It is easy to prepare as there are no bones aside from some cartilage. Sturgeon is sold fresh or smoked, normally in tranches. It is versatile in cooking and can be sliced and poached in court-bouillon, boiled, broiled, grilled, breaded and fried, pan-fried (storione alla ferrarese), stewed, baked in parchment paper, or served raw.
Beluga sturgeon (Ladano) (Husa husa) lives primarily in the Black and Caspian Seas but also, although rarely, in the Adriatic Sea and Po River. It is huge, growing up to 8 meters. This fish is prized for its large eggs to make into beluga caviar.
European sea sturgeon / Atlantic sturgeon / Baltic sturgeon / Common sturgeon (Storione Comune) (Acipenser sturio) is found on most coasts in Europe but is at risk of distinction. It has the best tasting meat of all the sturgeon. It is also fished for its eggs to be made into caviar.
Starry sturgeon (Storione stellate) (Acipenser stellatus) grows to 2 meters in length but is lighter in weight than other sturgeon. Its eggs are made into sevruga caviar, which is inferior to beluga caviar but superior to oscetra caviar.
White sturgeon (Storione bianco) (Acipenser trasmontanus) grows up to 6 meters in length, but is normally about 1.5 meters. It can be farmed for its meat and eggs to be made into caviar. White sturgeon is the most prized of the sturgeon.
Surici, U – See Wrasse, cleaver
Suro – Mackerel, Atlantic horse
Swordfish (Pesce spada) (Xiphias gladius)
Substitution: Mediterranean spearfish, tuna
Swordfish is an endangered saltwater fish that should be eaten less. It is a magnificent fish with a long bill and is much celebrated in Calabria and Sicilia where it is fished from April to September. It is best eaten in the spring and early summer. It can grow up to 4 meters in length and weigh up to 200-300 kilos. Swordfish has three traditional methods of being fished. In the first method, they have a person on a 20 meter high post who spots the swordfish and use a bow with a long harpoon (fiocina) with a forked point with which to spear the fish. The second method is to release nets kilometres long (palangari) and lined with hooks that can be fixed or loose. The third method is to tightly fix a net 800 meters long and 16 meters high to create a drifting wall (palamitara). The last method is illegal in the European Community as it traps many other species in the net, some of which are protected. Swordfish is highly prized for the delicate flavour of its meat, ease of preparation since it is sold in tranches, versatility in cooking, and its texture (which deteriorates if it has been frozen). It is typically sold in tranches, although sometimes it is sold as smaller fish of 2-3 kilos, and is distinguishable because the vertebrae is in an “X” formation and is larger than shark vertebrae. Not all parts of the swordfish are the same however. The belly (ventresca, surra) is the most highly prized part of the swordfish as it is softer, light coloured, and fattier. The back of the swordfish is dark pink, lean, and quite tough so requires marinating in wine and oil before cooking. The tranches are eaten raw (pesce spade crudo), thinly sliced, rolled and baked (braciolette di spade), grilled (pesce spade alla griglia, spiedini di pesce spada), pan-fried (pesce spade in padella), sautéed (pesce spade a ghiotta), steamed, or stewed (pesce spade alla bagnarese and pesce spade alla regina). It is traditionally served with salmoriglio sauce. The whole fish can be baked or grilled and served with salmoriglio sauce or boiled in sea water and served with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley.
Tambarello – See Tuna
Tanuta – See Sea bream, black
Temolo – See Grayling
Tench (Tinca) (Tinca tinca)
Tench is a native freshwater fish to Italy prized for its meat. It can grow to 60 cm and prefers tranquil and cold waters, rich with vegetation. It is also farmed but the quality depends on the water in which it lives, which if very still, the fish can taste of mud. Tench is often sold alive and if it is kept in clean water, alive, for a few days, it will lose its muddy taste. If the fish smells muddy, it can be soaked briefly in water and vinegar to remove. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times. Tench is about 50% meat. To prepare tench, be careful to remove the spines as they can be prickly but do not remove the scales, just clean well. Small tench can be dipped in flour or breaded and fried in olive oil or lard, roasted on the grill or oven with sage, stuffed and baked (tinca a cappone), baked (tinca al forno), broiled; used in soups and stews, or floured, fried, and marinated in onion and bay leaf (tinca in carpione). Tench is also stewed (tinca alla lariana, tinca in guazzetto, tinca con i piselli) or cooked in risotto (risotto con la tinca). Tench is often cooked with strong flavours such as herbs and garlic.
Tinca – See Tench
Tonno– See Tuna
Tonnetto alletterato – See Tuna
Tracina– See Weever
Triglia di fango – See Mullet, Red/Mullet, Striped
Triglia di scoglio – Mullet, Striped Red
Trota– See Trout
Trout (Trota) (Salmo trutta)
Substitution: whiting, European; char, arctic; grayling
Trout is a saltwater and freshwater fish prized for its tasty meat and for having relatively few bones. Farmed trout can be as good as wild trout, particularly if marked “al torrente” as it has been raised in an artificial cold current to obtain firm consistency of the meat. Also prized is trout marked “salmonata” which has vividly coloured flesh which looks like salmon in colour, obtained by feeding the trout ground crustacean shells. It is often sold live and is not highly perishable. Trout can be kept for up to 36 hours after being killed but is best eaten very fresh. Frozen trout is also of good quality. It is 60% meat. Trout should be scaled when preparing but wipe rather than wash the trout. It does not match well with olive oil but rather butter, lard, and lardo (unless being used to dress boiled trout). Trout is also not often paired with tomato. It can be boiled, grilled (trota alla griglia), pan-fried, baked, stewed with wine, mushrooms, or black truffle (not tomato), fried and marinated in vinegar, white wine, and aromatics (trota in carpione), or roasted with pancetta, lardo, or prosciutto crudo as filling or wrapped around the fish. The fillets, escalopes, tranches, and smaller whole fish (16-18cm called trotella) can be fried. It can also be smoked or made into paté or terrine.
Brown trout (Trota fario) (Salmo trutta fario) is a native trout to Italy that lives in running water in the Alps. Brown trout have been successfully farmed. It grows to 50cm in length and is typically less than 1 kilo. This is the most prized trout in Italy.
Brown trout (Trota lacustre) (Salmo trutta lacustris)
Marble trout (Trota marmorata) (Salmo trutta marmoratus) live in Switzerland and Veneto.
Native brown trout (Trota macrostigma/Trota sarda) (Salmo trutta macrostigma)
Rainbow trout (Trota iridea/Trota arcabaleno) (Salmo trutta gairdnerii) originated in North America but now also live in Italy. This is now the majority trout on the market in Italy as it is successfully farmed.
Tuna (Tonno) (Euthynnus alletteratus, Thunnus alalunga, Thunnus thynnus, Sarda sarda, Auxis thazard)
Tuna is most prized in south-central Italy although is less esteemed than swordfish. Atlantic bluefin tuna is the most prized tuna in Italy, followed by albacore tuna. Look for tuna steaks with even, deep colouring. Dark spots indicate bruising and pale flesh is past its prime. It can be served raw, grilled, floured or breaded and pan-fried (tonno c’a cipuddata), grilled, roasted (tonno alla genovese), baked (tonn alla marinara), sautéed (tonno umbriaco), or stewed (tonno coi piselli).
Tuna / Little tunny (Tonno / Tonnetto alletterato) (Euthynnus alletteratus)
Little tuny is a saltwater fish with markings on its back that look like writing. The colour of the flesh is similar to that of Atlantic bluefin tuna but the meat is less fatty and tougher in texture ,so is less prized. The flesh has a lot of blood in it, which is difficult to digest, has a strong flavour, and can act as a laxative. The blood can be removed and the meat thereby made more easily digestible by soaking pieces of the fish in ice water in the refrigerator overnight. The most prized parts are from the belly (ventresca and tarantello). It is versatile in cooking method but should be cooked briefly but gently. Tuna is stewed (tonno alla portoscusese, tonno ammuttunatu, tonno briaco alla livornese), broiled, or breaded and fried.
Tuna, albacore (Alalunga) (Thunnus alalunga)
Albacore tuna is a saltwater fish that lives throughout the Mediterranean Sea and can grow up to 1 meter in length and 30 kilos in weight. Together with Atlantic bluefin tuna (which it is similar to but albacore has leaner, less prized, meat), they are the most prized tunas in Italy. It has recognisable pectoral fins and is best eaten in the autumn. The flesh is a very light pink colour and can be preserved well in oil. Albacore tuna is versatile in cooking method but is best boiled, steamed, baked, grilled, pan-fried (alalunga in agrodolce), raw, or marinated like ceviche. Be careful not to overcook or the meat will become very hard.
Tuna, Atlantic bluefin (Tonno rosso) (Thunnus thynnus)
The Atlantic bluefin tuna is an endangered saltwater fish that can grow up to 3 meters in length and up to 400 kilos in weight. It is the most prized tuna for its flavourful flesh.
Tuna, bonito (Palamita) (Sarda sarda)
Bonito tuna is a saltwater fish that lives in the Mediterranean Sea and grows to a length of 80 cm and up to 10 kilos in weight. It is best eaten in the winter and spring. It has rosy flesh with a pronounced flavor, which should be cooked gently over low heat. It is versatile in cooking method and can also be preserved in oil. Bonito tuna can be broiled, fried, stewed, or marinated.
Tuna, frigate (Tombarello comune / Tambarello) (Auxis thazard)
Regional names: biso, pisantuni, prisituni, sangusu, sgamirru, tunnacchiu
The frigate tuna is a saltwater fish, which is the smallest of the tunas and looks like a large mackerel. It is blue and lead grey in colour. The flesh has a lot of blood in it which is difficult to digest and can act as a laxative. The blood can be removed and the meat thereby made more easily digestible by soaking pieces of the fish in ice water in the refrigerator overnight. It is versatile in cooking method but pairs well with strong aromatics which can match the strong flavour of the meat such as rosemary, thyme, capers, olives, onion, and garlic. It should be cooked quickly but gently.
Tuna, preserved (Tonno conservato)
Buy: Tinned tuna comes packed in olive oil (“sott’olio”) or brine (“al naturale”) in a jar or tin. It comes packed in pieces or in one solid piece. It can be yellow fin tuna, bonito, albacore, or another variety of tuna. The highest quality preserved tuna is packed as one whole piece in olive oil. The most prized cut is the belly (ventresca or tarantello) as it is delicate, soft, and fatty. The price varies according to the factors above but also according to the production process. Frozen or fresh tuna is either steamed or cooked in water and packed by machine or by hand into a container with hot oil, salt, and sometimes absorbic acid and MSG. It is then sterilised. Fresh tuna packed by hand will be more expensive. In Italy the best preserved tuna is sold in the delis by weight rather than packaged.
Store: Store in the cupboard at room temperature until the expiration date on the packaging.
Prepare: Open the tin and remove the tuna from the liquid. Discard the liquid. Once the container is opened, if the tuna was packed in a tin, remove it to a glass or plastic container, seal it and keep in the refrigerator.
Eat: Preserved tuna can be simply dressed with olive oil lemon, and freshly ground black pepper and served with raw vegetables such as radishes, fennel, and spring onion. It is also used in salads, with beans (fagioli col tonno), as a sauce to dress veal (vitello tonnato), to stuff half of a raw tomato, in sandwiches (tramezzini), in meatballs (polpetone di tonno), to stuff an omelette, to stuff hard-boiled eggs, or to dress pasta (ziti alla palermitana).
Turbot (Rombo chiodato) (Psetta maxima)
Substitution: John Dory, halibut, flounder, sole
Turbot is a saltwater flat fish, distinct in its rhomboid body shape and knobbly brown skin, not to be confused with brill which are of similar shape and in the same family. The side with the eyes has no scales but has bony tubercles. It has a speckled body and is rhombus in shape. There is a special rhombus-shaped pan (turbottiera) made for cooking turbot. Turbot is found all over the Mediterranean Sea and can grow up to 1 meter in length. Typically, the turbot sold is between 20-50cm in length and weighs between 300 gms to 4 kilos. There is now farmed turbot. It is best eaten in the winter and autumn. The meat is highly prized in Europe and is excellent, firm in texture with a delicate flavour. Turbot is my favourite Western fish. A whole fish has 50% meat. It can be cooked whole or filleted. If filleted, look that the meat is creamy white without any tinge of blue indicating it is past its prime. If cooked whole, it is best to leave the skin on until serving. Turbot needs to be cooked gently over low heat with careful attention not to overcook it or it loses its characteristic qualities. It can be broiled, stewed, poached in court-bouillon, baked (rombo con i carciofi and rombo al forno), grilled (with its skin on), steamed, fried, or floured or breaded and pan-fried (rombo con salsa di acciughe e capperi). It does not pair well with olive oil but goes very well with butter, potatoes, artichokes, lemon, and/or herbs such as tarragon.
Vairone (Vairone) (Telestes muticellus)
Vairone is a freshwater fish that live in rivers in central and northern Italy, France, and Switzerland. It grows up to 25cm in length. Its meat is not highly prized suitable for deep-frying.
Verdesca – See Shark
Verzelata – See Grey mullet
Vitello di mare – See Shark
Volpina – See Grey mullet
Weever (Tracina/Pesce ragno) (Trachinidi)
Substitutions: red scorpionfish
Regional names: varagno, dragone, ragno pagano
Weever is a saltwater fish, which grows from 20 to 40 cm in length. There are many species in the Weever family. It has three venomous spines on the dorsal fin and the two gills so you need to use gloves when preparing. If you do prick yourself, soak your hands in hot water. Weever has solid white flesh, which is stewed or cooked in soups. The small ones can be deep-fried and the medium sized ones can be grilled if very fresh (tracina alla griglia), stewed, or broiled.
Greater weever (Tracina drago) (Trachinus draco)
Spotted weaver (Tracina ragno) (Trachinus auraneus)
Lesser weaver (Tracina vipera) (Trachinus vipera)
Whitebait (Bianchetti) (Clupea harengus, Sprattus sprattus)
Whitebait is the young of anchovies, sardines, and pilchards. It is typically eaten from February to August. They should be cooked within 24 hours of being fished. They are sold fresh or boiled and dressed. Whitebait is delicious and is usually eaten whole, breaded and deep-fried or boiled in sea water and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
Whitefish, European (Coregone/Bondella, Lavarello) (Coregonus lavaretus, Coregonus macrophthalmus)
Substitution: trout, perch
Whitefish is a freshwater fish introduced into lakes in Italy in the 19th century. The firm white meat is very tasty and has few bones. It can also be served raw, but the flesh is a bit soft. It pairs well with butter, lardo, and lard. It can be cooked whole broiled, baked (coregone alla bolsenese, lavarello al forno and lavarello alla salvia), baked in parchment paper, or boiled. It can also be filleted and floured or breaded and fried or deep-fried, stewed with wine, mushrooms, or black truffle, roasted with pancetta, lardo, or prosciutto crudo, minced to make fish cakes and stuffings, or used to dress pasta or rice.
Coregone/Bondella (Coregonus macrophthalmus) originates from Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland and lives in Lakes Como, Maggiore, and Lugano in Lombardy and Switzerland. It grows up to 30cm and can be farmed.
Lavarello (Coregonus lavaretus) is a hybrid of the fish from Lake Constance in Germany and lives in the Italian alpine lakes and lakes in Umbria and Lazio. It can grow up to 60cm in length.
Whiting, blue (Melù/Potassolo) (Micromesistius poutassou)
Substitution: hake, poor cod
Regional names: pesce morgana, potassolo
Blue whiting is a saltwater fish, which lives along the Tyrrhenian Sea and grows to about 30 cm in length. It resembles hake but has larger eyes and a smaller mouth. Blue whiting is fished in the spring and summer. There is a festival in Porto Ercole in honour of the blue whiting. The delicate flesh is easily digested and similar to hake or cod although less flavourful and too soft in texture when raw and then too hard when cooked. Blue whiting is sold fresh or salted and sun-dried (mosciame). It is easy to bone as the flesh is soft and you can just use your hands. In Liguria the small ones are opened flat, breaded and deep-fried. The large ones can also be boiled. Small blue whiting can be floured and fried in butter (alla mugnaia).
Wrasse, cleaver / Razorfish, pearly (Pesce pettine/U surici) (Xyrichtys novacula)
The cleaver wrasse is a saltwater fish about 20 cm long. It is a prized fish in Calabria where it is fried. It is good fried in butter.
Zander (Lucioperca/Sandra) (Sandra lucioperca)
Substitutions: pike, perch
Zander is a freshwater fish, which originates from Central-Eastern Europe and Asia but was introduced to Italy in the 19th century. It now lives in the lakes in Lombardy and in many rivers. It can grow up to 1 meter in length. It has white, firm flesh with few bones, which should be eaten as fresh as possible. Its meat is tougher than other freshwater fish so it needs to be cooked slightly longer than most fish. It can be boiled (lucioerca in salsa), braised (Sandra brasata al vino rosso), floured and deep-fried, pan-fried with butter and sage, or made into meatballs.
Zerro – See Picarel
Flounder, European – See Fish: Flounder, European
Florentine fennel – See Fennel
Flour, Durum wheat / Semolina, Kamut (Farina, Semola / Semolino, Kamut) (Triticum aestivum, Triticum turgidum durum, Triticum turanicum turgidum)
Equivalents: 1 cup of flour = 115 grams (will vary 10-20% depending on humidity)
1 tablespoon flour = 15 grams
Substitutions: These are approximations as each type of flour is different so there is no perfect substitution.
|00 Flour||Plain flour||Pastry flour||405||40|
|1 Flour||3 parts strong flour to 1 part plain flour||High-gluten flour||812||80|
|2 Flour||First clear flour||1050||110|
|Integrale Flour||Whole wheat flour||1700||150|
While flour literally means the grinding of any grain, cereal, or pulse, when the word flour is used alone, it typically refers to soft wheat flour. There are many types of flour and each country’s flour is different. There are strong flours for making breads and rustic desserts and soft flour for making pastry, cakes, fresh pasta, and pizza. There is also hard semolina flour used to make pasta, breads, dumplings, and cakes. The most-used flour for home use in Italy is 00 flour (see below). Flour is rich in carbohydrates and has a protein content between 7 to 18%.
Buy: Check the expiration date on the packaging and look to ensure there are no holes in the bag or signs of pests or moisture. White flour should be uniformly white without any specks. In Italy there are 5 grades of flour depending on the ratio of husk to whole grain the flour contains. 00 is the whitest and silkiest and is the most used for cakes, fresh egg pasta, sauces, and some bread.
Types of Italian flour:
Soft wheat flour (Grano tenero / Farina bianca / Farina di frumento) (Triticum aestivum)
Soft wheat flour is more typically used in northern Italy. There are five categories of soft wheat flour further classified into soft flour and strong flour. The categories are derived from siftings with the softest flours being the finest. The more coarse the flour, the higher the number until integrale which is the coarsest meaning it is almost entirely bran (so also contains the most protein). About 80% of Italian breads are made with soft flour.
Soft flour has lower levels of fibre, gluten, minerals, and vitamins and is used for light breads, cakes, pasta, and sauces. This flour is more delicate in flavour and texture and is very white in colour as almost all the bran has been removed.
Types of soft flour:
00 Flour is used in delicate desserts, biscuits, and pastry. There are many types of 00 flour ranging from 40 to 80% gluten resulting in a different degree of liquid absorbtion. 40% is used to obtain a crispier dough. 80% is used to obtain a softer, fluffier dough.
0 Flour is used for less fine pastry, grissini, crackers, pizza, bread, and fresh egg pasta.
Strong flour (integrale) has a higher nutritional content and dietary fibre and has greater flavour. It is used for yeasted breads and is rich in gluten so forms an elastic dough. It is more perishable than soft flour so should be freshly milled.
Types of strong flour:
1 Flour is used for more rustic breads and desserts.
2 Flour is used for more rustic breads and desserts.
Integrale flour absorbs a greater quantity of water and so does not rise well and does not become elastic and smooth. It is dark in colour due to the high amount of bran or germ.
Hard durum wheat / Semolina (Grano duro / Semolo / Semolino) (Triticum turgidum durum)
Hard flour is made from durum wheat, and is more typical of central and southern Italian cooking. It is more granular and yellow in colour than soft wheat flour. The more coarse grain is labelled as “semolina” while the finer grain is labelled “semolina rimacinata”. It is primarily used for making pasta with water (without the addition of egg) and dried pasta. It is also used in breads, dumplings, and desserts. In Puglia and Sicilia they use hard flour for breads. Hard durum wheat can be more finely ground (semola rimacinata) and called semolina (semolino). Semolina can be made into dumplings (gnocchi alla romana), used in soups, desserts, biscuits and made into couscous.
Kamut (Kamut) (Triticum turanicum turgidum) and other ancient Sicilian grains (such as Tumminia, Russello, Biancolilla, Perciasacchi and Bidi) were rediscovered recently. They have become popular as it is high in protein, low in gluten, low on the GI (glucose index), easily digestible, and has a high content of selenium, a mineral that reduces free radicals that can cause cardiovascular disease. It is often made into dried pasta. When I can find kamut or tumminia pasta, I buy it.
Other types of flour:
Note: American flours are harder and higher in gluten and protein than Italian flour. American flours usually have azodicarbonamide added to the flour to mature it and help strengthen the gluten, elasticity, and rising of the dough. It is activated when the flour is mixed into a dough. If you cannot find Italian flour, it is better to use British or French flour which are weaker and have a higher starch content.
All-purpose flour is an American flour made from a blend of soft, medium, and strong wheats which have been milled and refined. It can be used for breads, cakes, and sauces.
Bread flour is a high-gluten flour milled from hard wheat and has a high protein content. It is often blended with low-gluten flours to create dough with more strength and elasticity. It is used to make American style breads and pizza but is not good for making Italian breads. Bread flour is slightly coarse and cannot be squeezed into a lump.
Cake flour is an American flour made from soft wheat with very little gluten so it is perfect for light, delicate baked goods such as high-ratio cakes, jelly rolls, and biscuits. It has a higher gluten content than Italian flour so it is good for making pasta. It has a diminished starch content so will react differently to moisture.
Pastry flour is an American flour made from soft wheat with a low gluten content, slightly more than cake flour, and is used to make tart and pastry doughs, cakes, pastries, and cookies. Pastry flour is smooth and fine and can be squeezed into a lump.
Plain flour is a British flour made of refined and bleached soft wheat. It has only a small amount of gluten so produces a light texture which is perfect for cakes, biscuits, and shortcrust pastry.
Self-raising flour is an American flour with wheat flour that has been mixed with baking powder and salt. As baking powder loses its potency over time, self-rising flour should be used within 2 to 3 months of production. It is used for making cakes and breads.
Strong flour / Strong plain white flour is a British flour made of soft and hard wheats. It has almost no bran or germ and so are fortified with the nutrients later in the process. It is suitable for yeasted breads, pizza, puff pastry, and flakey pastry as it has a high gluten content, which gives a stronger crumb structure.
Stone ground (macinatura a pietra) is a traditional technique of slowly grinding. The reduction in velocity reduces the temperature and so the risk of cooking the grain, improving the flavour. The essential oils also blend with the starch so the flour has the best flavour, aroma, and nutritional qualities such as an elevated level of enzymes and vitamins. It makes a very dense bread so is often mixed with more refined flours. It is more perishable than normal flour, lasting only 5 to 6 months after production.
Unbleached flour has been matured and whitened naturally so has better flavour than the artificially whitened “bleached” variety.
Store: Store in a sealed container in a cool, dry place for 8 to 14 months after production. Stone ground flours will only last 5-6 months after production. Semolina goes stale quickly even if well sealed so purchase it when you need to use it.
Prepare: Most flour needs no preparation. In some desserts, the recipe may call for the flour to be sifted to aerate it.
Eat: Flour is not only used to make breads, pastries, crispbreads, flatbreads, biscuits, pastry, and cakes but is also used to thicken sauces (besciamella), batter meat, vegetables, and fruit for deep-frying, make soup (zuppa di cipolle e farina tostata), and to flour meat for frying to add colour and flavour before braising or stewing. Semolina is used to make desserts, soups (minestra viterbese, zuppa Bolognese and minestra di semolino), couscous, pasta (orecchiette, lagane and maccheroni), and dumplings (gnocchi alla romana).
Focaccia genovese – See Bread
Formaggio – See Cheese
Fragola – See Strawberry
Fragoline di mare – See Octopus
French horn mushroom – See Mushroom: King trumpet mushroom
Frog fish – See Fish: Monkfish
Fugassa – See Bread
Fungo – See Mushroom
Fungo ostrica – See Mushroom: Oyster
Fungo di Parigi – See Mushroom: Button
Funnel mushroom – See Mushroom: Funnel
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