- CLAMS, RAZOR CLAMS
- SEA SNAIL
- SEA URCHIN
Atlantic white-spotted octopus – See Octopus
Boston lobster – See Lobster
Calamari – See Squid
Calamaro – See Squid
Chiocciola di mare – See Sea snail
Clams, Razor clams (Vongola / Arsella, Lupino, Tellina / Tartufo di mare, Caparozzoli, Cappa liscia/Fasolaro / Cannolicchio, Cappalunga) (Venerupis decussata / Tapes decussatus, Venerupis semidecussatus / Tapes philippinarum, Chamelea gallina, Venerupis semidecussatus / Tapes philippinarum, Venus verrucosa, Donax trunculus, Callista chione and Solen vagina / Solen marginatus / Ensis Minor / Ensis Ensis / Pharus legume)
Buy: Buy only very fresh clams of medium size (not too big or small). Clams can also be purchased frozen and tinned but fresh and alive are the best. Vongole verace and razor clams are only sold fresh. All the shells should be firmly shut with no cracks in the shells. If some of the clams are open, shake them around and they should shut immediately. They should not have a fishy or sharp odour.
Carpet shell clams (Vongola verace, Falsa verace/Vongola gialla, and Lupino/Venus gallina are the most important varieties) (Venerupis decussata / Tapes decussatus, Venerupis semidecussatus / Tapes philippinarum, Chamelea gallina): These have a rounded shell.
Lupino/Venus gallina (Chamelea gallina) clams are rounded with deep concentric grooves on the shell and a greyish brown zig-zag patterned colouring. They are 3 to 4cm in diameter and are harvested throughout the year except June. They are prevalent in the Adriatic Sea. They are quite flavourful. Lupini cannot be farmed and should be purchased packaged and labelled as a guarantee to the consumer.
Falsa verace/Vongola gialla (Venerupis semidecussatus / Tapes philippinarum) have shells which are thinner and more elongated than venus gallina. It is more vividly coloured with brown colour has spots of lighter or darker colour. They are 4cm or less in diameter. It is distinguishable from the vongola verace by its siphons which form a “II”. Many of these clams originate in the Philippines. They are inferior in flavour to the vongola verace.
Vongola verace (Venerupis decussata / Tapes decussatus) are the most prized of the clams but are more rare nowadays. They have irregular concentric grooves on the shell and are a varied smokey brown colour. They grow to a maximum of 4 to 5cm in diameter. They are different from the vongola gialla as the inside is more yellow, the shell is so thin you can break it with your thumbnail, it is less vividly coloured on the outside and the siphons form a “V” shape. Vongole verace are farmed in the Po delta and in the Venetian lagoon.
Venus (bumpy shelled: Tartufo di mare / Caparozzolo) (Venus verrucosa): These are one of the largest clams and can reach 5 to 6 cm in diameter. They are distinguishable by the concentric circles on their shell. They should be purchased packaged and labelled as a guarantee to the consumer. These clams can be eaten raw with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of black pepper or cooked with pasta like vongole verace (linguine con vongole).
Wedge shelled clams (Tellina / Arsella) (Donax trunculus): Wedge shelled clams live on sandy beaches. Wedge shelled clams should be purchased packaged and labelled as a guarantee to the consumer. They have a refined and elegant flavour so should not be paired with strong flavours.
Smooth clam (Cappa liscia/Fasolaro) (Callista chione): The smooth clam can reach a diameter of 8 cm. It has a thick dark brown shell. They should be purchased in packaged net bags and labelled as a guarantee to the consumer.
Razor clams (Cannolicchio / Cappalunga) (Solen vagina): Razor clams have an elongated, thin, rectangular brown or cream shell and can be up to 15cm long and 2 cm wide. They live in the Adriatic and Tyrrhennian Seas. They are sold in bunches fresh or frozen.
Store: Keep the clams alive until it is time to cook them. Place them on a damp towel in the refrigerator at 0-6C. They can be kept like this for 2 to 3 days. Razor clams are difficult to store out of the water as they dehydrate quickly so try to use them the same day. Razor clams should be stored with the foot downwards and the siphons upwards.
Prepare: Frozen clams should be defrosted in the refrigerator. Discard any shells which are open or cracked. The day you are going to cook the clams, scrub the shells under cold running water. Then mix together 100 grams of non-iodised salt per 1 litre of cold water and cover the clams with this salted water for 4 to 5 hours in the refrigerator so that they filter out any sand or grit. Any shells which float to the surface should be discarded. Seafood is best cooked gently- by steaming, sautéing, poaching, or light broiling for about 10 minutes. Do not overcook. You know they are done cooking when the shell opens. Razor clams also have a sack at one end which holds sandy deposits which should be removed before serving. Clam cooking liquid can be collected, strained, and used in dishes to add additional flavour. Discard any clams which have not opened during cooking.
Smooth clams need to be shelled and the red part beaten with a meat tenderiser.
Eat: Clams are good with pasta (linguine con vongole), soup (zuppa di vongole), or as a stew (vongole alla napoletana). Razor clams are good eaten raw, steamed, baked, stewed, deep-fried, broiled, grilled, in soups, gratinéed, or in seafood salads.
Conchiglia di San Giacomo – See Scallop
Conchiglia di San Jacopo– See Scallop
Crab (Granchio / Granciporro / Grancevola / Granseola / Favollo) (Cancer pagarus, Carcinus aestuarii, Maja squinado, Liocarcinus vernalis, Macropipus depurator, Macropipus corrugatus, Eriphia verrucosa)
Equivalent: 450 grams of crab in the shell = 115 grams crab meat
There are different types of crabs in Italy but the spider crab is a distinct type that is highly prized.
Edible crab / Brown crab (Granciporro) (Cancer pagarus) is large, about 40cm and is found in lagoons around Venice and in the Atlantic Ocean. It is hazelnut to light yellow in colour with large claws. It should have a slightly raised tail under the body. It is fished year-round.
Green crab / Shore crab (Granchio comune / Granchio verde) (Carcinus aestuarii) is grey with shades of green or red. A green crab is about 7cm long and is found on the beaches, particularly around the northern Adriatic Sea. It is also eaten after it has molted when its shell is soft (then called “moeca” or “moleca”). It is fished year-round. In Venice the females (called “masanate“) are particularly prized at the end of summer when they are full of eggs.
Spider crab (Grancevola / Granseola) (Maja squinado) can be up to 20cm long with long legs and a rounded body in a pear shape with spines. It’s name in Italian derives from “granzo seola” which in Venetian dialect means “onion crab”, referring to its shape. They are found in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Females are smaller but have more meat while males are bigger but have less meat, although their meat is more delicate. The females are distinguishable as their underbelly is round whereas in the males it is triangular and elongated. These crabs are meatiest between mid-December until the end of February. They are ideally purchased live.
Swimmer crab / Sand crab (Granchio di sabbia) (Liocarcinus vernalis, Macropipus depurator, Macropipus corrugatus) has a greenish back and yellow-white belly. Some swimmer crabs have claws and others don’t. The males grow to 5 to 6cm while the females grow to 3 to 4cm. The meat is very flavourful and it can survive for a long time out of the water. A swimmer crab can molt its hard shell from March to June and from September to December. During this time it can be eaten whole.
Yellow shore crab / Furry crab (Favollo/Granchio fellone) (Eriphia verrucosa) is a large, 10-12 cm dark red-brown coloured crab with large claws, hairy legs, and spikes near the eyes. It lives throughout the Mediterranean Sea and is eaten in the winter and for most of the spring. It is one of the tastiest crabs to eat. It is highly prized in Toscana where it is boiled and used for pasta sauces and soups.
Mediterranean Geryon (Granchio di fondo) (Geryon longipes) is red and grows up to 8 cm long. It lives in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the north and central Adriatic Sea. It is particularly enjoyed in Liguria where it is served simply with tomato sauce or in soups.
Box crab / Shame-faced crab (Granchio melograno) (Calappa granulata) has a 10-15 cm round brownish body with red nodules. It lives throughout the Mediterranean Sea. It has delicate, delicious meat which is usually boiled and served in salad with olive oil.
Store: Like with most seafood, crabs are ideally bought live or freshly cooked and eaten the same day as purchased. If the crab is purchased alive, then keep it in an empty pot or other container to keep it from escaping. Wet newspapers and place on top of the crabs to keep them moist but do not cover so that they can breathe. Leave in a cool spot in the kitchen. If it is freshly cooked then keep the crab in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Prepare: Wash the crab in cold running water, brushing to remove any sand or mud. If you want to present the crab whole and are using live crabs, you may want to dunk it in ice water before cooking to help keep the legs attached. This relaxes the crab so that it doesn’t panic when being cooked and drop its legs as a defensive instinct.
Brown crabs must be boiled in salt water or ideally court-bouillon for 20 minutes in order to shell. Green crabs should be boiled in salted water for 10 minutes and left to cool in the liquid. Spider crabs must be boiled first for 3-4 minutes before you can open the shell if to be used in sauces, pasta or risotto or 10-15 minutes (depending on the size) for salads.
Seafood is best cooked gently- by steaming, poaching, or light broiling. Seafood needs very little flavourings if very fresh. For a step-by-step guide on how to dress a crab, click here. The shells can be used for broth.
Eat: Crabs are good in fish soup (cacciucco and ciuppino), in pasta (spaghetti al favollo and linguine con granchio), stuffed, risotto (granseola in risotto), or served on their own boiled, poached, or steamed and dressed in lemon juice and olive oil (granseola olio e limone). Crabs can be baked, deep-fried, grilled, poached, sautéed, steamed, and stewed. If using crab in a soup, stew, or sauce, you can fry the crab in the shell first before removing the meat to add more flavour. Spider crab (grancevola) is cooked whole and the flesh and claws are eaten. Soft shell crabs are eaten grilled or deep-fried. Yellow shore crabs can also be eaten raw with a squeeze of lemon.
Crawfish – See Lobster
Cuttlefish (Seppia / Seccia / Sepa / Sepia / Scarpetta) (Sepia officinalis, Sepia elegans, Sepiola rondeleti)
Substitutes: Squid (calamaro), European flying squid (totano) or octopus
Cuttlefish is similar to squid but with a larger head and wider body. It is light brown with stripes with bright white flesh. It lives in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. They are fished from spring to autumn and in the winter. Cuttlefish is more tender than squid or octopus. They have a very mild flavour. There are two other minor species of cuttlefish which live in the Mediterranean: the Elegant cuttlefish (Seppia di fango) (Sepia elegans) and the Dwarf bobtail squid (Seppolina) (Sepiola rondeleti) which have a rounded body and are inferior.
Buy: Cuttlefish can grow up to 25cm long and have 10 tentacles (8 long and 2 short). It is best eaten in the winter. Buy only very fresh cuttlefish if you need to use the ink as the ink changes from liquid when fresh, to grainy if it has been frozen. Otherwise frozen cuttlefish are pretty good as they don’t lose much flavour and become more tender after having been frozen. The ink can also be purchased separately in little sacks. The best quality cuttlefish are the young ones as they have better flavour, are tender, and cook more quickly although the size is not necessarily an indication of age. Tiny cuttlefish are known as “seppoline”. Under 5cm are definitely young but once they are over 15cm, it is more difficult to determine the age. The dish you are preparing will determine what size cuttlefish to buy. The large ones are better for a main course dish which require long cooking times whereas the smaller ones, between 10 to 15cm in length, are better for deep-frying, grilling and in pasta. The reproductive organs of the cuttlefish (uova di seppia / gonadi / ovi o latti di sepa) are also sold and are boiled and served in salad in Venezia.
Store: The larger ones are better stored in the refrigerator for a day or two before cooking. They can be successfully frozen for months if well-sealed.
Prepare: The preparation for cuttlefish is similar to that for squid. Inside the cuttlefish is a white shell or cuttlebone, which is removed in preparation. See here for a guide on how to prepare squid. The texture of the larger cuttlefish can be improved by marinating in wine vinegar, and salt. The smaller ones cook faster than the larger ones.
Eat: Cuttlefish must be cooked either very quickly (2-3 minutes) or for a very long time (more than 30 minutes, the older the cuttlefish, the longer it needs to be cooked) to achieve a good texture. The quickly cooked cuttlefish may be slightly rubbery in texture and have a marine-like flavour. This is suitable for salads, stuffing and deep-frying (seppie fritte and seppioline), grilling (seppie ai ferri), broiling or griddling. Slow-cooked cuttlefish will become soft and tender in texture with a more intense flavour. The head, tentacles and wings are most suited to slow-cooking. This is suitable for soups and stewing (seppie alla veneziana, zimino / zemin, and seppie coi carciofi). They can also be baked (seppie al forno), boiled, steamed and roasted. Sometimes the baby cuttlefish are eaten raw (allievei crudi). The ink is used in pasta and risotto dishes (risotto nero), particularly in Veneto and Toscana.
Date Mussel – See Mussels
Dattero di mare – See Mussels
Gamberello – See Prawn
Gamberetti – See Prawn
Gambero – See Prawn
Gamberone – See Prawn
Horned octopus – See Octopus
Langoustine – See Lobster
Lesser octopus – See Octopus
Lobster / Boston lobster / American lobster / Spiny lobster / Rock lobster / Norway lobster / Dublin Bay prawn / Langoustine (Astice / Aragosta, Scampo) (Homarus gammarus, Homarus americanus, Palinurus elephas, Nephrops norvegicus)
Equivalents: 450 gram lobster = 1 main dish serving = 2 starter serving
800 grams langoustines in the shell = 250 grams langoustine shelled = 2 servings
Whole lobster weight x 30% = meat weight
Langoustine weight x 30% = meat weight
Buy: Lobster is a shellfish which is sold frozen, alive, fresh, and cooked. It is best to buy live lobsters. Do not buy dead fresh lobsters, tinned lobster, or cooked picked lobster meat. Lobsters range in colour depending on the species, see Type below. A lobster weighing about 600-700 grams is the optimal size for most dishes. Don’t buy a lobster weighing more than 2 kilos as the meat can be stringy. Look for a lobster which is not missing legs or claws, not floppy, and feels heavy for its size. If the lobster is alive, there should be tension in its tail and claws. The lobster should have been fished in the past couple of days as a lobster in captivity shrink and the meat becomes rubbery. If it smells fishy then do not buy it. For cooked lobster, pull the tail straight and see if it springs back to determine if it was cooked when alive. Italians prefer Mediterranean spiny lobsters to Boston lobsters.
Langoustine is sold frozen, cooked or fresh. It needs to be eaten directly after being fished so is often frozen or cooked. To judge the freshness of a langoustine, look at the eyes which should be dark black and plump, not sunken and grey. The shell should have a sheen even if it is not wet and not appear dehydrated. The head should not be brown and should not be separating from the tail. Sometimes only their tails are sold frozen. Frozen langoustine is also good but fresh is preferable. They are often treated with sulphites to prevent their discolouration.
European lobster / Common Lobster, Boston lobster / American lobster (Astice / Astaco) (Homarus gammarus, Homarus americanus) The European lobster (homarus gammarus) has a blue and black shell with white spots and lives in the north Atlantic between France and Norway. The Boston lobster (homarus americanus) is smaller, more brown in colour and lives along the North American Atlantic coast from Maine to Canada. Both types turn brick red on the back and cream and coral colour on the underside when cooked. Unlike other lobsters, this lobster has claws (which are bigger on the male). They can grow to 60 cm in length. The flesh is more elastic than that of the spiny lobster with a less delicate flavour. The best lobsters are from the coldest waters. The male lobster has firmer flesh than the female and has larger, meatier claws. The female lobster has more delicately flavoured flesh, a broader tail, and may have roe. The flesh is a creamy pink colour, and is firm and delicate in texture, with excellent flavour. Their dark green coral (usually in the males) and whitish liver have an excellent flavour and are good in sauces and risotto.
They are at their best and are at their most abundant during the summer. There are also Boston lobsters from Africa which are brown in colour with inferior meat. They are in season from October through June.
Norway lobster / Langouste / Scampo / Dublin Bay prawn / Langoustine (Scampi / Scampo / Arganello / Astrocio /Lempitu di fangu / Renfele ‘e funnale) (Nephrops norvegicus) is a very small pink-orange shelled Mediterranean lobster with small spines, which can grow to 25cm. The flesh is delicate and soft. The Mediterranean langoustine has a thinner shell than the one in the UK. It has pale claws. They are found in the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas, northern hemisphere seas, and along northern Africa. They are in season in the spring or autumn. They are usually sold frozen as they discolour within hours of fishing if not treated with sulfites (this only stops the discolouration rather than halts the deteriation of the quality of the meat). The use of sulfites is not ideal as some people are allergic. If the langoustine are not fresh, there may be a smell of ammonia and will appear dehydrated with the head separating from the body. Italians tend to prefer spiny lobster most, with langoustine then Boston lobster considered close contenders.
Spiny lobster / Rock lobster (Aragosta / Elefante di mare /Agosta / Langusta / Aligusta / Alaustra) (Palinurus elephas) is a crustacean rather than a true lobster, is smaller (up to 50 cm in length and 8 kilos in weight) and has no claws. The spiny lobster has two long antennae, two small antennae, and five pairs of legs. It is red-brown, pink, or green with yellow or white specks. It is found along the coasts of Sardinia and Sicilia. The female has a double row of fins under the tail and may have roe. Their dark green coral (usually in the males) and orange liver have an excellent flavour and are good in sauces and risotto.
Caribbean spiny lobster (Cuba) (Panulirus argus) is brown with large light-coloured spots and has large antennae. It lives in subtropical and tropical waters in various oceans. The meat is flavourful but inferior to the palinurus elephas.
Mediterranean lobster / European spiny lobster (Aragosta Nostrana/ Aragosta Mediterranea) (Palinurus elephas) isbrick-red coloured with two white dots on each segment of the tail and has the tastiest meat. It lives in the Mediterranean Sea. They are fished from October to June. They reproduce in the spring when they have roe.
Pink spiny lobster/ Portugal spiny lobster (Aragosta Rosa/Aragosta di Portogallo) (Palinurus mauritanicus) is lighter in colour with light-coloured flecks. Its meat has less flavour and is not as delicate.
Royal spiny lobster (Aragosta verde/Aragosta di Mauritania) (Palinurus regius) is blue-green coloured and lives in subtropical or tropical waters, particularly from Africa. It has less flavour than the Mediterranean species.
Store: It is best eaten immediately but you can keep it in the refrigerator for a day by rolling it loosely in damp newspaper inside a ventilated paper bag.
Prepare: Before cooking live lobsters, it is kind to kill them first. Either freeze it for 10 minutes or place it upside down, holding it by the curve in its tail, and rub your finger along the top of the head until the lobster calms down. Place it on a cutting board and plunge a knife into the indentation in the shell just behind the eyes (between the eyes and the tail) and draw the knife downwards between the eyes. If you need to halve the lobster then turn the knife around and draw the blade down from head to tail to cut it in half. Lobster is typically boiled or grilled. To boil a lobster add it whole to a large pot filled with boiling salted water (20 grams of salt per litre of water) until the lobster has turned brightly red (a 500 gram lobster will take 12 minutes, a 750 gram lobster will take 18 minutes, a kilo lobster will take 24 minutes; add an extra 5 minutes for each additional 500 grams). Lobster should be cooked gently and quickly as overcooked lobster meat is tough and rubbery.
The tail can be twisted off from the body and cut in half by drawing a knife down the tail or if you want to keep the meat whole, use scissors to cut down the shell covering the underside of the tail and pull the meat out. The body can be used for soups or sauces if you remove the sand sac and the intestines. The green liver, or tomalley, is excellent for sauces. To prepare the tail, draw out the vein in the back holding the waste. There may also be eggs inside and/or the coral, which are perfectly edible and can be used in sauces. The eggs are black when raw and turn orange when cooked, they can also be cooked in butter and eaten. The claws, including the knuckles can be twisted off and cracked with a mallet. If extracting and chopping the flesh, boil it for 2 minutes before cutting and keep the lobster in relatively large pieces so it retains its moisture. To grill, cut in half lengthwise and place the back on the grill (the hairs on the legs burn and make the taste bitter). If baking, bake for 25 minutes at 225 C. Serve it immediately after cooking so it does not loose its flavour.
To prepare langoustine, wash under cold, running water and brush the shell if there are algae or anything stuck to the shell. It can be kept whole (best to crack the shell) or the tail removed (as all the meat is in the tail) and the head can be used for soup. To remove the shell or just crack it, place the langoustine on a cutting board stomach down and cut along the back with scissors or place back down and cut along the stomach. Pull the shell open and remove the black line with a toothpick.
Eat: Lobster is best cooked simply by boiling in court-bouillon (aragosta alla bosana), steaming, fried, broiling, roasted (aragosta arrosto), or grilling (aragosta alla griglia). It can be served hot or cold (aragosta in insalata), plain or simply dressed with mayonnaise or olive oil and lemon juice. It is also eaten cooked with tomato (aragosta alla catalana), with pasta or rice with tomato sauce (spaghetti all’aragosta), pasta with mushrooms and butter, or soup (zuppa di aragoste).
Langoustine is normally boiled in court-bouillon for 3-4 minutes (scampi lessati), breaded and deep-fried for 3-4 minutes (scampi fritti) , steamed for 6-8 minutes, grilled for 10 minutes (scampi alla griglia), baked for 10 minutes, sautéed for 6 minutes (code di scampi, fave e piselli), or added to risotto or pasta.
Mazzancolla – See Prawn
Moscardino – See Octopus
Moscardino bianco – See Octopus
Mussel, Sea date / Date mussel / Pholas dactylus (Cozza / Mitilo / Muscolo, Dattero di mare / Folade) (Mytilus galloprovincialis, Modiolus barbatus, Lithophag lithophaga, Pholas dactylus)
Regional names: Mussels: arcella niura, dattero, modiola, mosciolo, musciolo (Marche), pediocio, peocio (Venice); Pholas dactylus: lattaro ‘e mare, lattaro verace,
Equivalents: 900 grams = 2 servings
Buy: Mussels are a shellfish which filter water, so it is essential they are grown in clean waters. They should only be consumed from September to April due to toxins produced by the algae during the summer months which the mussels filter. All the shells should be firmly shut with no cracks. Only buy very fresh seafood. In Italy, they are farmed and sold in net ags with labels stating the species, place of origin and date and place of packing. Ensure that the mussels are farmed in an area of clean water free from pathogens, fecal matter or heavy metals in the water as the mussels filter the water. They should be eaten within 5 days of packing. Buy more than you need as you may need to discard some.
Mussel (Cozze / Mitilo) (Mytilus galloprovincialis, Modiolus barbatus, Mytilus edulis) have a rounded triangular shaped shell which is blackish blue with a smoky brown hue. The inside has a pearly shine to it. They can be farmed or grow wild attaching themselves to rocks or piers in clumps. The small to medium-sized mussels are the best. Avoid large ones if possible. The best mussels are from Tarantoin Puglia.
Bearded horse mussel (Cozza pelosa / Modiola) (Modiolus barbatus) is prized for its meat. The shell is easily recognizable as it is covered in fur and is not larger than 5 cm in length. It can be cooked but is usually served raw.
Blue mussel / Common mussel (Cozza edule / Cozza spagnola / Cozza Atlantico) (Mytilus edulis) is from the Atlantic Ocean. They grow up to 10 cm. It has delicate and flavourful meat.
Mediterranean mussel (Mitilo Galloprovinciale / Mitilo commune) (Mytilus galloprovincialis) grow in the Mediterranean Sea and are farmed. They grow up to 10 cm.
Sea date / Date mussel, Pholas dactylus (Dattero di mare, Folade) (Lithophag lithophaga, Pholas dactylus)resemble dates and are difficult to gather as they secrete an acid to help embed themselves in rock. Date mussels must be sold fresh.
Date mussel (Dattero di mare) (Lithophaga lithophaga)have a dark brown shell that is typically 5-8 cm in length but can grow up to 15 cm. They are relatively rare but are found in Liguriaand Puglia. They are highly prized for their delicate flavour.
Date mussel / Pholas dactylus (Folade / Dattero di mare) (Pholas dactylus) have an elongated, dull white or grey coloured shell with two openings. They can be 10-12 cm in length. The foot is flat with rasps to assist in boring.
Store: Keep the mussels alive until it is time to cook them. Place them on a damp towel in the refrigerator between 0 to 6C. They can be kept like this for 2 to 3 days. The day you are going to cook the mussels, scrub the shells under cold running water. Then mix together 100 grams of non-iodized salt per 1 litre of cold water and cover the mussels with this salted water for several hours in the refrigerator so that they filter out any sand or grit.
Prepare: Discard any shells which are open or cracked. Soak the date mussels in cold water, any shells which float to the surface should be discarded. Use a kitchen towel to grab the furry beard of the mussel and pull it off, drawing towards the hinge (not necessary for date mussels). Discard the beard and rinse the mussels again. Wash in several changes of water, agitating the water with your hands to remove any grit and scrape the shells by scraping them with a knife or stiff brush to clean then. If they are to be opened while raw, use an oyster knife and insert it in the point of the triangle and pry open. Otherwise they can be placed for a few minutes on a tray in a hot oven or over a high flame in a frying pan (reserve any liquid discharged to filter and use in the dish). Seafood is best cooked gently- by steaming, poaching, or light broiling. Discard any mussels which have not opened during cooking. Seafood needs very little flavourings if very fresh. The meat inside the mussel varies from bright orange, indicating they are female, to more beige.
Eat: Both mussels , bearded horse mussels and date mussels can be eaten raw, dressed with lemon and pepper (cozze alla leccese), but are generally served cooked. Date mussels are typically cooked in oil, garlic, and parsley (datteri di mare alla marinara, datteri di mare alla veneziana) or used in soups (zuppa di datteri giuliana, zuppa di datteri di La Spezia), or stews (datteri di mare a stufato). Due to their delicate flavour, do not pair date mussels with strong flavours.
Mussels are good boiled (cozze bollite) and used in pasta (vermicelli con le cozze in bianco) and rice (riso con le cozze) dishes, fish soups (zuppa di cozze in bianco, zuppa di cozze al pomodoro), or main dishes. They can also be stuffed (cozze ripiene al sugo), baked (cozze al gratin, cozze in tortiera, tiella di riso con le cozze), deep-fried (cozze fritte, cozze e orziadas), sautéed (cozze, cocozze e ove), or stewed (cozze alla pugliese). There are many recipes in Puglia for mussels.
Norway lobster – See Lobster
Octopus (Polpo / Piovra / Polpessa / Moscardino) (Octopus vulgaris)
Substitutes: cuttlefish and squid
Octopus is a grey to yellowish cephalopod with a rounded head resembling a sack with eight tentacles, each with two rows of suction cups. It lives along the coast throughout Italy and while it is fished year-round, it is best eaten in the winter.
Buy: Octopus should have bright skin, a pleasant smell, and have the skin, tentacles, and suction cups intact. Smaller octopus will be more tender and simpler to prepare. It is very difficult to distinguish between fresh octopus and octopus which has been frozen and thawed.
Atlantic white-spotted octopus (Polpessa / Polpetto / Fragoline di mare) (Octopus macropus) is smaller (its head grows up to 15 cm in length), has two tentacles which are longer than the rest, and is reddish in colour with white flecks.
Common octopus (Polpo / Piovra) (Octopus vulgaris) is the best tasting of the octopus but is more difficult to prepare as it needs to be tenderized. The head can grow up to 25 cm in length. It can grow up to 3 meters in total length but the best ones for eating are 50 cm in total length. They can weigh as little as 100 grams or as much as 25 kilos.
Curled octopus / Lesser octopus / Horned octopus (Moscardino / Polpo muschiàto / Polpo di Aldrovandi / Polpo di sabbia / Moscardino bianco / Sinisco) (Eledone cirrosa) only have one row of suction cups per tentacle. Its head grows up to 50 cm in length. It is normally braised and used in sauces but is less flavourful than the common octopus.
Store: Octopus is best used within a day of purchasing and can be kept sealed in the refrigerator. Octopus can be successfully frozen and will keep for three months if well sealed.
Prepare: Remove the beak and eyes. Turn the head inside out to remove the contents of the body. The ink can be reserved for use in making fresh pasta and pasta or risotto sauces but discard the rest. If the octopus weighs more than 100 grams, use a mallet or cutlet bat, to pound the tentacles and body until tender. Large octopus should also be skinned. Rub the octopus on a rough surface with circular movements to remove the sticky outer substance on the skin, rinsing from time to time (preferably with sea water) until the surface no longer feels slimy. Large octopus may need to be cooked for 2 hours or more, depending on the weight (calculate 1 hour per kilo of weight). Test if the octopus is done by piercing the octopus with the tip of a knife, if it goes in easily, then the octopus is cooked. Smaller octopus (which weigh up to 100 grams each) can be cooked in liquid for about 20 minutes. Do not overcook octopus or the meat will be bland, the skin and suction cups will detach, and it will look unappealing.
Eat: Octopus release liquid when cooked so do not need the addition of liquid when cooking (polpi cotti nella loro acqua, polpo affogato). Octopus can be baked, stewed (polpi in galera), boiled (polpo alla Luciana, polpo e patate), or pickled (polpo sott’aceto). Octopus pairs well with chillies, mint, parsley, marjoram, oregano, garlic, olive oil, lemon, onion, and tomato.
Ostrica– See Oyster
Oyster (Ostrica) (Ostrea edulis, Crassostrea angulate, Crassostrea gigas)
Equivalents: 6 oysters = 1 starter serving
Oysters are bivalves with irregular shaped shells which live on rocky sea beds. They have been enjoyed since Roman times. Traditional areas for oysters are in the gulf of La Spezia (Liguria), the gulf of Taranto (Puglia), the Venice lagoon (Veneto), and the central and northern Adriatic Sea.
Buy: Buy only very fresh oysters. All the shells should be firmly shut with no cracks in the shells. They can be farmed or wild. Most oysters sold in Italy are from France. Check the sell buy date on the label which should also indicate the provenance and certify depuration for 24 hours in controlled plants. Oysters vary in size and are numbered from 0 to 5 with 0 being the largest. Sizing varies by country so a British 5 will be larger than a French 5. An average sized oyster is about 10 cm in length. Wild oysters vary widely by season and are best when the ocean is coldest. Only buy wild oysters from the end of October through February. During the summer, wild oysters breed and the flesh can be undesirably milky, fat, and soft. Farmed oyster can be purchased anytime and are sold in 1 to 3 kilo wooden crates labeled with the date of packing. There are three types of oysters in Europe:
贝隆生蚝Belon / European / Round / Native / Flat (Ostrica piatta /Adriatica / Tarantina) (Ostrea edulis) has a flat, rounded shell and a delicate flavour. This type is the most prized species, although are relatively rare. The finest in Italy are found in Tarantino, Puglia. They are normally between 7 to 10 cm in length but can grow up to 15 cm (labelled “000”). Outside of the classification are the enormous “Pieds de cheval” which are reknowned for their particular hazelnut flavour, low salinity and iodine They are farmed in the northern Adriatic Sea and the Venetian lagoon in Veneto and are the most common type of oyster in Italy.
岩蚝Rock oyster / Pacific oyster / Japanese oyster / Concave /Gigas (Ostrica giapponese / Ostrica concave) (Crassostrea gigas) has an elongated, concave shell which holds more water. The texture is coarse and the flavour is of the sea. The flavour of the meat is good but still slightly inferior to the flavour of the Belon. They are often cooked rather than eaten raw. They are intensively farmed. There are some oysters which are finished in shallow clay ponds which give them a superior texture and flavour. The label Ordinaire means they have not been finished in these ponds. Claire means they were finished for less than a month, Fines de claire means they were finished for more than a month and fines de claire speciales means they were finished even longer and covered with a green algae that imparts a particular flavour.
葡萄牙生蚝Portuguese oyster (Ostrica lunga / Ostrica portughese) (Crassostrea angulata) has an elongated, convex shell. These are less fine than the Belon and the Rock oyster.
Store: Do not store oysters; eat them upon purchasing. If they must be stored, keep ithem in the fridge in their crate with the concave part down and covered so that they do not open and lose their water.
Prepare: Discard any shells which are open or cracked. Using a dishcloth or a knit, metal or garden glove. to cover your hand, hold the oyster in one hand and use an oyster knife in the other hand. Be very careful while opening the oyster as it is very easy to cut yourself. Place the tip of the oyster knife in the hinge and turn the blade to force the shell open. Discard the flattened top shell. Use the oyster knife to separate the flesh from the other half of the shell, retaining the meat in shell if they are to be served raw. Tip out the liquid with the shards of shell using the knife to help remove them and discard the liquid. Don’t worry about leaving the oyster dry, more liquid will come out. Place the raw oyster on a platter filled with shaved ice or rock salt. Discard any oysters which have not opened during cooking.
Eat: If an oyster tastes bad, spit it out. Oysters can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw oysters are served on the half shell on a bed of crushed ice and the liquid is prized for its flavour. They are normally eaten with a small fork, a sprinkling of black pepper or lemon juice, and accompanied by whole wheat or white bread and butter. Oysters are eaten with dry white sparkling wine like Champagne blanc de blanc or a dry, herbaceous white wine. They can also be gratinéed and baked (ostriche alla tarantina), boiled, fried, steamed or baked in sealed in parchment paper with vegetables.
Polpetto – See Octopus
Polpo – See Octopus
Polpo di Aldrovandi – See Octopus
Polpo muschiàto – See Octopus
Polpo di sabbia – See Octopus
Prawn / Shrimp / Crayfish / Mantis prawn (Gambero / Gamberone / Gamberetto / Gamberello / Gamberell / Mazzancolla / Carabinero, Gambero di fiume, Canocchia / Panocchia) (Squilla mantis, Crangon crangon, Parapenaeus longirostris, Palaemon elegans, Plesiopenaeus edwardsianus, Aristeomorpha foliacea, Aristeus antennatus, Penaeus kerathurus / Melicertus kerathurus, Astacus astacus/Astacus fluviatilis / Austropotamobius pallipes /Orconectus limosus/ Palaemonetes antennarius)
Equivalents: 10-12 crayfish = 1 serving
120 grams shelled prawns = 240 grams unshelled prawns = 6 large prawns = 1 serving
There are two main types of prawns in Italy, the Mediterranean prawn (gambero) and mantis prawn (canocchia). Mediterranean prawns range in colour from pink to red and grow up to 20 cm in length. They are wild or farmed. Prawns have a long, thin body, which is divided into three parts: the cephalothorax, the abdomen, and the tail with five pairs of swimming legs. Very large normal prawns in America are called “scampi” although in Italian this refers to langoustines (See-Lobster). In America all prawns can be called “shrimp” (although sometimes very large prawns are called prawns) whereas in Britain they are normally called prawns. Mantis prawns are long prawns with a very hard shell.
Buy: Buy prawns whose head and shells are intact, are not missing legs, and are not soft, or limp and feel heavy. Smell the prawns, if they smell fishy or of ammonia, then don’t buy them. They should have a fresh sea smell, and be bright coloured with clear, shiny, springy crisp shells. Prawn shells lose colour and their joints discolour when they begin to dry out. Avoid prawns with a black or very dark coloured head. Mantis prawns have less meat during the spring and beginning of summer. Crayfish and mantis prawns.deteriorate rapidly so are best purchased alive if possible. Buy frozen prawns and crayfish, not thawed as they spoil more quickly than fresh.Prawns vary greatly in size depending on the type.
螳螂虾Mantis prawns (Canocchia / Panocchia) (Squilla mantis) are found in the Adriatic from the Marche to the Veneto. These are long prawns with a very hard shell that grow up to 25 cm in length. They are a pearly light yellow colour with pink or light purple tinges. They are flatter than normal prawns and they are best in winter when their meat is more consistent.
Regional names: astrea, càmbara de fangu, canocia, caraviedde, cicala di mare, pannocchia, schirifizu, sparnocchia, stracciavocc, strappabocca
虾Prawn / Shrimp
小虾Gamberetti (Small prawns):
普通虾Brown shrimp / Sand shrimp / Bay shrimp / Common shrimp (Schia / Gamberetto grigio / Gamberello / Gamberell / Gambero di sabbia) (Crangon crangon) is a tiny brownish-grey coloured shrimp that has good meat. It grows up to 5 cm in length. They live in the lagoons and estuaries in Veneto. They are rinsed and boiled in salted water to be served as a starter or snack (cicheto in Veneto). They are also good deep-fried whole.
Caridean shrimp (Gamberetto boreale) (Pandalus borealis) lives in the coldest parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They grow up to 10 cm. They are sold in brine, fresh and frozen. They are best fried whole with their shell on.
Common prawn (Gambero commune / Gamberetto di roccia) (Palaemon serratus) lives throughout the Mediterranean Sea. It is sold frozen and fresh. It is suitable for all types of cooking.
深水玫瑰虾Deep-water rose shrimp (Gambero rosa del mediterraneo / Gambero Bianco) (Parapenaeus longirostris) is a smaller, light pink prawn. It grows between 6 to 12 cm in length and while the meat is good quality, it is inferior to the rest of the prawns listed below. It is sold fresh, cooked, or frozen. It is best boiled or fried. The small ones can be eaten whole with the shell.
草虾Grass prawn (Gambero squilla / Gambero fascina) (Palaemon elegans) is a small grey prawn that grows up to 6 cm in length. It is similar to the common prawn.
大虾Gamberoni (Large prawns):
Argentian red shrimp (Gambero argentino / Gambero atlantico) (Pleoticus muelleri) can grow up to 25 cm and has a pink to red shell. It lives along the South American coasts from Brazil to Chile. It is sold throughout the world frozen and is categorized by size (large to small) L1, L2 and L3. It is a good quality prawn which is best cooked baked in salt, grilled, deep-fried or in sauces and soups.
Giant tiger prawn / Asian tiger shrimp (Gambero black tiger) (Penaeus monodon) are dark grey with black stripes and grow to about 20 cm or more. They live in southeast Asia. .
大红虾Great red prawn / Scarlet prawn (Gambero Rosso / Carabinero) (Plesiopenaeus edwardsianus) are a bright red, large prawn that can grow up to 33 cm. They live in the Atlantic Ocean and are typically sold frozen. They have excellent meat.
Kiddi shrimp (Gambero indiano) (Parapenaeopsis stylifera) grows up to 15 cm. It is sold peeled frozen and may be pre-cooked. They are of low quality.
地中海红虾Red Mediterranean prawn (Gambero rosso mediteraneo / Gamberoni) (Aristeomorpha foliacea) is a large, intensely red prawn, which can grow up to 22 cm in length. It lives in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. It is highly prized for its pronounced flavour suitable for soups and stews. They can also be eaten raw, boiled for 2 minutes, grilled, fried or sautéed. It is good fresh or frozen.
地中海红虾Red Mediterranean prawn (Gambero rosso mediteraneo / Gamberoni) (Aristeus antennatus) is a large, intensely red prawn, which can grow up to 22 cm in length. It is distinguishable from the Artisteomorpha foliacea above because it is rosier in colour with hues of purple. It lives in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. It is highly prized for its pronounced flavour suitable for soups and stews. They can also be eaten raw, boiled for 2 minutes, grilled, fried or sautéed. It is good fresh or frozen.
三槽虾Tripe grooved prawn / Tiger prawn (Gamberone mediterraneo / Gambero imperial / Mazzancolla) (Penaeus kerathurus / Melicertus kerathurus) is a very large type of prawn which grows up to 22 cm in length. It is a light coloured grey or pink with purple hues and has a delicate flavour. It lives in muddy or sandy waters and also lagoons in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. It is often grilled with garlic, olive oil, and parsley. It can be successfully substituted with the Asian variety,Penaeus japonicas (mazzancolla giapponese). It is sold fresh, frozen and pre-cooked. They are versatile in cooking. With the shell on they can be boiled, grilled and baked in salt. Deshelled, they are best sautéed or deep-fried.
Whiteleg shrimp / Pacific white shrimp (Mazzancolla tropicale) (Penaeus vannamei) grow up to 20 cm in length and live in tropical countries. They are sold frozen whole without the head. .
淡水Freshwater (Acqua dolce):
Crayfish have ten legs of which two are claws.
欧洲小龙虾European crayfish / Broad-fingered crayfish / Noble crayfish (Gambero di fiume / Gambero in acqua dolce) (Astacus astacus / Astacus fluviatilis) only exists in Venezia Giulia. It grows up to 15 cm in length and has a delicate flavour.
白爪小龙虾European freshwater crayfish / White-clawed crayfish / Atlantic stream crayfish (Gambero delle Zampe / Gambero di fiume europeo) (Austropotamobius pallipes) are found throughout Italy although are endangered. They are brownish in colour with a pale underside. They grow up to 12 cm in length and have a delicate flavour. In Italy it is more common to find the Turkish crayfish (Astacus leptodactylus).
Eastern crayfish / Delcore crayfish (Gamberi di fiume americani) (Orconectes limosus / Procambarus clarki) are an invasive native American crayfish species which has infested northern and central Italy. They have smaller, less flavourful meat.
Red swamp crayfish / Louisiana crayfish / Louisiana crawfish / Mudbug (Gamberi di fiume americani) (Procambarus clarki) are crayfish from America which have infested the waters in Italy. They have smaller tails and claws and are of inferior quality to that of the native Italian variety.
Grass shrimp (Gamberino di fosso / Gamberino di Salterello) (Palaemonetes antennarius) are a small shrimp which grow up to 2 cm in length and are semi-transparent. They live in the Po Valley and are particularly prized in Mantova. They are usually floured and deep-fried.
The sizing is numbered suggesting the number of prawns to make a pound (450 gms). So U10 means 10 prawns to make a pound (the largest size). “U” and the number means “under” so U10 means less than 10 prawns to make a pound. There is also U10/20 (medium sized – it takes 10 to 20 prawns to make a pound), U20/30 (small sized – it takes 20 to 30 prawns to make a pound), and U300/500 (extra small sized- it takes 300 to 500 prawns to make a pound).
Store: Fresh mantis prawns should be cooked upon purchasing. It is best to also eat prawns as soon as they are purchased, remembering to keep them cool even on the way home. Prawns can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with ice and parchment paper in a perforated container such as a colander over a bowl which allows the liquid to drain. If the prawns are left to sit in liquid, they will begin to decompose. They can be kept this way for 1-2 days. Prawns can be successfully frozen by placing in a lidded container and covering with water, sealing, and freezing for up to 3 months.
Prepare: Defrost prawns in salted iced water or a brine. Prawns should be washed under cold water and brushed to remove any algae or mud. If the recipe requires the prawn to be shelled, twist off the head, remove the legs, and use your thumbs to open the belly of the prawn and remove the shell. The head and shells can be used in fish broth. Use a paring knife to cut along the back and remove the black line down the back. If the prawn is to be left with the head on, remove the middle part of the body leaving the head and end of the tail attached. Place a toothpick ito the back to pull out the black line running down the back.
Crayfish: To prepare crayfish, let them sit for an hour in cold water before cooking. To clean, brush it under running water. Prepare a court-bouillon to boil the crayfish until they turn red. Remove from the water and remove the head and claws. Remove the shell from the tail and break the claws to remove the meat. The heads and shells can be used in broth.
Mantis prawns: To prepare mantis prawns, they can be placed in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, drained, cooled, and then deshelled. Otherwise they can be shelled raw by using scissors to cut off the end of the tail and down the sides lengthwise along the body. Open the top of the shell to remove the tail meat.
Cooking prawns: Do not overcook prawns as they become tough and rubbery. To boil or steam, turn off the heat as soon as they are added to the salted water or steamer and let sit for for 5 to 10 minutes depending on their size. To fry, batter or bread the prawns and deep fry at 180C until golden. To grill, place the unshelled prawns on the grill and cook, turning until they have entirely changed colour. To bake prawns in salt, place unshelled prawns on top of the rock salt, cover with more rock salt and bake at 180C for 10 minutes. To sauté or use in soups or sauces, add the aromatoics ot the pan and cook, add the prawns with the head but with the body shelled, add a bit of wine, reduce the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Eat: Small prawns are fried (gamberetti rosa fritti, gamberetti grigi fritti), used in risotto (risotto con i gamberetti) or boiled (gamberetti rosa lessati, gamberetti grigi lessati) and served with tomato sauce or garlic and parsley (gamberetti grigi aglio e olio). Large prawns (longer than 20 cm) are broiled, deep-fried or added to sauces (gamberoni in umido) or soups.Mazzancolla are delicately flavoured and is best grilled. Fresh water prawns are broiled, poached (gamberi alla umbra), grilled (gamberoni alla griglia), or used in risottos (risotto coi gamberi, risotto alla certosina) or pastas. Mantis prawns are good boiled (canocchie bollite), steamed, sautéed with parsley, garlic, and lemon, breaded and deep-fried, or served in soups (cacciucco) and risotto.
Riccio di mare – See Sea urchin
Rock lobster – See Lobster
Scallop (Cappasanta / Conchiglia di San Giacomo / Conchiglia di San Jacopo / Canestrello) (Pecten jacobaeus / Aequipecten opercularis)
Regional names: ventaglio, pettine maggiore, cappa santa, conchiglia del Pellegrino, Jacopo, pellegrina, coquille Saint Jacques
Equivalents: 175 gms=3-4 large scallops =10-15 small scallops = 1 main course serving
Scallops are one of the most prized seafoods. They are rare in Italy and are only traditionally eaten in Veneto. The variety found in Italy is the great Mediterranean scallop. Its shell is reddish brown in colour with one shell more convex and the other flat. It has a delicate flavour and a soft, buttery texture.
Buy: Fresh scallops are better than frozen scallops. Fresh scallops are best in winter, and are sold cleaned (leaving just the meat and sometimes the roe) or on the shell. They are best purchased in the closed shell, although this is less common. Scallops sold on the shell are sold fresh, not frozen. The shells are nice for presentation purposes. When buying fresh scallops, look for ones with uniform pearly white to pale pink muscles, which are moist and sticky without being dripping wet. They should not be bright white as this indicates they have been treated with chemicals. The white muscle should be firm and the scallop should have a fresh ocean scent to it. Scallops in the shell should be closed or able to close if the shell is tapped or squeezed. Cleaned scallops are sold wet-packed or dry-packed. Scallops should appear unblemished and not torn or ragged as this may suggest they were improperly stored. But if you cannot buy very fresh scallops, look for scallops that have been individually quick frozen (IQF). Scallops come in a range of sizes from small to large, but in Italy it is forbidden to fish for scallops less than 10 cm in diameter. Look for scallops that are 10 to 15 cm in diameter.
The sizing is numbered suggesting the number of scallops to make a pound (450 gms). “U” and the number means “under” so U10 means less than 10 scallops to make a pound. The large ones range up to 5 cm in diameter.
Bay scallops are a smaller variety which are sweeter and more delicate. They should not be fried. Bay scallops have a different numbering system so will be labelled as 70/120 indicating between 70 to 120 scallops in one pound.
Diver scallops / Diver-collected are considered a premium product as most scallops are harvested by dragging nets along the sea floor, while the diver scallops have been hand fished. Diver scallops tend to be larger as they select the large ones but are also less environmentally damaging as the nets drag in all sizes of scallops and other shellfish as well.
Dry-packed and chemical-free are preferable because this means they have not been chemically treated, and the weight you pay for is the actual weight of the meat.
Wet-packed means the scallops have been soaked in a liquid phosphate solution that whitens them and plumps them up, so that 30% more of their weight is in fact water weight. The phosphate not only has an unpleasant flavour but when the scallops cook the liquid seeps out making it impossible to sear them.
Store: Fresh scallops are best consumed upon purchasing. Live scallops can be placed in a container, covered with a damp towel or paper and placed in the drawer of the refrigerator for up to a day. Cleaned scallops may be covered with cling film and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. They can also be sealed and frozen for up to 3 months.
Prepare: Open the shell by inserting a knife into the hinge of the shell and cutting the muscle while holding it closed. The scallop has three parts: the round white, firm muscle (noce), the crescent-shaped orange or yellow coral (corallo), and the mantle (alveola). The muscle is the prized part of the scallop, the coral is also edible, and the mantle should be discarded or used for broth (fumetto) and filtered. Use a paring knife the cut the muscle from the shell and soak the muscle and coral in cold water for 10-15 minutes to remove any sand. There is a small, rectangular muscle attached to the larger round muscle which is tough and rubbery to eat, so pinch it and pull it to remove it from the main muscle. Wash the shell. Defrost frozen scallops overnight in the refrigerator or in a sealed plastic bag in running cold water. Scallops should be cooked carefully so as to not overcook them and render them rubbery and tough. Small scallops will take a few seconds to cook, whereas large scallops will take a minute or two.
Corals: Some people eat the corals as they are, and others lay them in a single layer on a baking pan and dry them out in a low oven overnight until they are hard and dry. They then grind them to a powder in a food processor and sprinkle the mixture over pastas, risottos, and seafood dishes.
Eat: Scallops should be accompanied by other delicate flavours. Scallops can be fried (cappesante in tecia), deep-fried (conchiglie fritte), sautéed, grilled (conchiglie alla griglia), baked (cappesante al forno), poached, steamed (conchiglie in insalata, conchiglie a vapore), grilled or used in soup. Scallops are great in seafood salads, stewed in white wine, gratinéed (capesante gratinate) and as stuffing for meat.
Scampo – See Lobster
Sea snail (Lumaca di mare / Chiocciola di mare) (Trochocochlea turbinata)
Regional names: cargolo, bovoleti, maruzele, bombetto, bomboletto, bovoeto, bovoleto, caragol, maruzela, maruzzella, uccuna, vuccuna
There are many types of sea snails in Italy but they are less than 3 cm in length, have a spiral-shaped shell which is brown or grey and patterned. They are often found in the lagoons in Venice and most of the recipes for them are from Venice.
Buy: They should be purchased live as after they die, they immediately give off a strong smell of ammonia. Look for brightly coloured, intact shells. The muscle should retract when touched. It should have a pleasant, fresh ocean scent.
Store: Sea snails should be consumed as soon as purchased but can be kept in the refrigerator covered by a damp cloth or paper in the drawer for up to a day. The meat can also be extracted and frozen in a sealed freezer bag for up to 3 months.
Prepare: Sea snails should be soaked in cold water for 20 minutes, occasionally agitating the water to ensure that any sand or debris is removed.
Eat: Sea snails are eaten cooked as a starter, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. They can be removed from their shell using a small fork or pin. They can be sautéed, baked (bovoleti in tecia) or boiled (caragoli lessati).
Sea urchin (Riccio di mare) (Paracentrotus lividus, Sphaerechinus granularis, Psammechinus microtuberculatus, Arbacia aequituberculata)
Sea urchin is a prized seafood which is round and covered in spikes. It is commonly found along the Italian coast, although not all types are edible. The edible part of the sea urchin is the gonad (the part that produces the sperm in males and eggs in females), also known as the coral (it is not the eggs as many people believe). The coral is bright red, orange, or yellow in colour and has a delicate and rich flavour of the ocean. It has a soft custard-like texture which is slightly grainy. They are in season from October to April, but are most plentiful in the spring when the coral the largest, just before the sea urchin breeds. They are particularly prized in Sicilia, Puglia, and Calabria.
Buy: Live sea urchin will be the freshest. The coral should be brightly coloured, appear dry and firm, and have a fresh ocean scent. If it appears watery, seems to be melting or smells fishy, do not buy it. The coral should fill the shell and be plump and flavourful. Test the spines by pressing on them with a finger to see if they offer resistance and are springy.
Purple sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus) is purple, green or brown in colour and lives in the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Atlantic Ocean. It grows up to 7 cm in diameter and has very long, sharply pointed spines.
Purple sea urchin (Sphaerechinus granulari) has a purple shell but the spines can be purple or white in colour and are short. It lives in the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Atlantic Ocean and grows up to 15 cm in diameter.
Green sea urchin (Psammechinus microtuberculatus) has a brown shell and either green or white, short, thin spines. It lives in the Atlantic Ocean, Adriatic Sea, and Aegean Sea and grows up to 5 cm in diameter.
Black sea urchin (Arbacia aequituberculata) is black in colour and lives in the Mediterranean Sea. It has thick, long black spines.
Store: Sea urchins should be purchased the day they are to be consumed but can be stored in the refrigerator at 3˚C for up to a day.
Prepare: Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut a 5 cm in diameter circle in the top of the sea urchin. Carefully remove the black part of the sea urchin without breaking the coral. Use a spoon to remove and discard the liquid. Gently remove the coral from the shell using a spoon ensuring it remains whole and rinse under cold water. To serve it raw for guests, fill the shell with shaved ice and top it with the coral.
Eat: The best way to eat sea urchin is raw on bread, sometimes with a squeeze of lemon. It is also used to dress pasta (spaghetti ai ricci di mare) and in omelettes (omelette ai ricci di mare).
Seafood (Frutta di Mare)- See individual types (Clam, Crab, Crayfish, Cuttlefish, Lobster, Mussel, Octopus, Oyster, Prawn, Scallop, Sea snail, Sea urchin, and Squid)
Squid / Calamari (Calamaro) (Loligo vulgaris, Todarodes sagittatus)
Regional names: totano del riso, totanu, toutinus, toutineddus, calamai, calamaro todaro, totano (the Ligurian name for calamaro)
Squid is a pale pink coloured seafood with brown and red spots, and a long body with two fins, two arms and eight tentacles. It ranges in length from 3 to 50 cm, and is available year-round.
Buy: Squid can be purchased frozen or fresh. It is difficult to determine if a squid has been previously frozen. Smell the squid to determine its freshness. It should have a fresh scent of the sea without any hint of ammonia. The skin should be intact and bright, unless it has been removed. The smaller ones will be sweeter and tenderer but ultimately consult a recipe to determine what size squid to purchase (See Eat below).
Common squid (Calamaro) (Loligo vulgaris) is found near Sicilia and in the Adriatic sea.
Baby Calamari (Calamaretto) is a younger and smaller common squid. They are between 3 to 5 cm in length and have no arms.
European flying squid (Totano) (Todarodes sagittatus) is smaller, has lateral fins, and larger tentacles. It is less prized than the common squid as they are less flavourful and have a tougher texture. It is distinguishable by the lateral fins which, when extended, are triangular in shape extending from the tip of the head. The flying squid is generally wider than it is long. On the common squid the fins are attached further down the body. The body is also less than half of the total length, whereas the common squid has a longer body.
Store: Gut and wrap the squid in plastic and keep in the refrigerator. Baby calamari should be eaten the same day they are purchased. Medium-sized squid can be kept for a day and large squid can be kept for a day and a half. Squid can be frozen if well-sealed for up to 3 months. Defrosted squid should be eaten as quickly as possible on the day it was defrosted.
Prepare: See how to prepare squid for a how to guide. Baby calamari do not need to be gutted or skinned before cooking if they will be deep-fried. When cooking larger squid whole, the quill, beak and sacks need to be removed, though the eyes can be left attached. Large squid become more tender if marinated in wine or vinegar before cooking. In order to ensure the squid is tender, either cook quickly or stew slowly. Cooking for too long or too short a period of time will produce rubbery squid. European flying squid need to be cooked for 10% longer than common squid.
Eat: Baby calamari are best boiled (insalata di mare, calamaretti in insalata, zuppa di calamaretti) or breaded or battered and deep-fried (fritto misto di pesce, calamaretti fritti). Medium-sized calamari, between 5 to 20 cm in length, are best cut and fried (calamari fritti), grilled (calamari alla griglia), stewed, stuffed (calamari imbottiti, calamari ripieni) or baked. Large squid, between 20 to 30 cm in length, should be fried, stewed or griddled. They pair well with parsley, chilli, olive oil, lemon, garlic, tomatoes and white wine.
Totano – See Squid
- 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:
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
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
Capone – See Gurnard, tub
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 persico – See Perch
Pesce pettine– See Wrasse, cleaver
Pesce pilota – See Pilot fish
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 see – 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 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