SEAFOOD cooked simply, Sicilian style, Sciacca (Misto di pesce in tegame con pomodoro)

Part of extensive fishing fleet in Sciacca

Often readers who wish to travel to Sicily ask me for suggestions about places to visit. One place I am particularly fond of is Sciacca, a small and attractive town in the south of Sicily located west of Agrigento. Sciacca has very ancient origins and throughout the ages it was a principal Sicilian port with a varied and interesting history for trade and for its thermal and mud baths. It still has a large a fishing port with excellent seafood, ceramics and relatively few tourists – these three features especially make it particularly attractive.

Friend sitting on steps made from ceramic tiles

When I stayed in Sciacca I kept on returning again and again to the Trattoria Buongustaio. The family who run the restaurant and especially the father (Pippo) made us feel very appreciated and willingly  prepared for us some of the older traditional Sicilian dishes that were not on the menu. Both Pippo and Mauro (son) appreciated our interest in food and were passionate to engage us in conversation about Sciacca’s local cuisine. Looking at my notes, I see that I relished tripe cooked in broth, the Sciacca version of pasta con le sarde (a little tomato and plenty of wild fennel), maccu (hard to get in restaurants), stuffed artichokes, fried slices of ricotta and not surprisingly, the local fish.

Trattoria Buongustaio is located in Piazza Don Luigi Sturzo, a square in the historical centre of Sciacca, where Porta Palermo is located; this was one of the ancient gateways into Sciacca that was once completely surrounded by a defensive barrier of strong walls.

This following recipe called Misto di pesce in tegame con pomodoro (mixed fish cooked in a pan with tomatoes). It may sound rather ordinary, but the combination of the different fish, all caught early that  morning and delivered to the restaurant by the fisherman, cooked simply with very simple ingredients  was pretty fabulous.

I prefer to use sustainable fish classified as best choice by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and in Melbourne where I live I have access to the following seasonal fish: Sand whiting, King George Whiting, Leatherjacket, Mackerel and Trevally. I like to use a mixture of whole fish and fillets cut into even size pieces.

I estimate the following quantities:

mixed fish, 1.5 kilo,
tomatoes, 300g, fresh, peeled, seeded and chopped
parsley, cut finely ¾ cup
fresh oregano or basil, a few stems
garlic, 1-3 cloves (or more to taste, cut into fine slices)
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Place oil in a shallow, wide sauce pan, add the slices of fish in one layer (if possible), top with tomatoes, oregano, some of the parsley and garlic and simmer with the lid on for about 10-15 mins.
Take off the lid and check for ‘doneness’; continue to cook without the lid if necessary.
A few minutes before switching off the heat, add the rest of the chopped parsley.

As a variation I have also added strong tasting black olives and at the same time as the parsley.