Grouper Matalotta in Tomato-Wine Sauce

(“Cernia alla Matalotta” - " Cernia ‘a Matalotta”)

The Cernia alla Matalotta is a signature dish in Trapani and in the costal towns of this province. The grouper, called cernia  in Sicilian, is a versatile fish because of his texture and lean flesh and in fact it is suitable for stewing, steaming, baking or roasting. 
The following recipe is very simple nevertheless it will be appreciated. It takes little time to prepare, yet it is tasty, colorful and has an exceptional blend of flavors.
However, in the restaurants to enhance its presentation, this simple fish stew cooked “allamarinara” was given the fancy name “alla  Matalotta”, from the French matelote, sailor style: with this name it commanded compliments to the chef as well as a few extra lires on the price list.
I will repeat as I have stated in other fish recipe: buy fresh fish from a reliable fishmonger. 
Smell the fish before you buy; it should not have any ammonia or fishy odor, it should look moist and the flesh should be firm to your touch.
Fillets of grouper are preferred in this preparation; however you can use stripe bass, sea bass, red snapper, or any other fresh fish fillet with a lean and firm flesh.





  • 2 lb. fish fillets, wash, pat dry and cut into 4
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of sliced garlic crushed
  • 4 fresh tomatoes or 1 ½ cups of canned peeled tomato
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • ½ cup of green olives pitted
  • 2 tablespoon of capers
  • ¼ cup of parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Parsley sprigs for garnish


Rinse the tomatoes well. Peel off the skin, cut in half, remove some seeds and dice. If using canned tomatoes remove some seed and chop them coarsely. Sprinkle tomatoes with ¼ teaspoon of salt and set on the side.

In a large skillet, over a medium heat combine onions and the oil, sauté for about 5 minutes, add the garlic and continue cooking until golden, total time 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic.
Set on top of the sautéed onions the fish, and the bay leaf; season with salt and pepper, moisten with the wine and increase the heat to high to evaporate the alcohol. About 1 minute.

Cover the fillets with the parsley, chopped tomato, olives, and capers, add ½ cup of water, cover the skillet tight and let simmer at low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer to a serving dish and spoon the cooking sauce on the top.
Garnish with parsley sprigs; serve with sautéed zucchini or sautéed spinach, a fresh loaf of Italian bread and a bottle of a young Sicilian white wine, a Catarratto or Alcamo Bianco, which are produced in the province of Trapani, or else a fresh Californian Chardonnay.