Roasted Whole Fish  

with 

Potatoes and Cherry Tomatoes 

 

Pesce al Forno con Pomodorini 

Pisci cu Pumaroru ri Pachino 

 

 

The Sicilian version of Roasted Whole Fish with potatoes and cherry tomatoes uses abundant olive oil and a limited amount of herbs and other condiments. 

Boiled potato are placed at the bottom of the baking pan to avoid the fish from sticking to it and at the same time have a side dish ready to serve with the fish; the cherry tomatoes are placed on top, to protect the fish from the oven’s high heat and to add the sweet-tart taste of the tomato, intensified by the roasting process and also to give an attractive color to the dish. 

The fish is stuffed with a little parsley, a piece of garlic, salt and pepper. A little wine is added to burst all the flavors, and the capers… The capers with their salty and sour tangy flavor, with their pungent aroma introduce a new attribute to the mosaic of the various fragrances and tastes, and… because capers are abundant in Sicily, they appear in many recipes and turn out to be almost a required feature to this and many other Sicilian dishes! 

 

Sea bass (branzino), porgy (sarago), snappers or grouper (cernia) weighting about a pound would be the ideal portion size. It does not matter what kind of fish you are cooking, the preparation is the same.

 

Continues at bottom of page.

 

Serves 4 

 

Ingredients 

 

 

· 4 fresh whole fish, scaled and gutted, 1 to 1 ½ lb. each 

· 2 ½ lb. of white potatoes 

· 2 pints cherry tomatoes 

· 7 tablespoons of olive oil, divided 

· 12 basil leaves, finely chopped 

·  Pinch of oregano 

· 1 clove of garlic finely chopped 

· 4 parsley sprigs 

· 2 cloves of garlic 

· 1 tablespoon of capers, well rinsed 

·  ½ cup of white wine 

· Salt and pepper to taste 

· 4 basil sprigs, for garnish 

 

Preparation 

 

The Potatoes
Rinse the potato under running water and place in a large pot. Cover with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil.
Keeping pot at a medium heat, cook for 15 minutes. Check if potatoes are tender by piercing with a fork. They should be firm because they will bake with the fish.
Scoop out the boiled potatoes with a slatted spoon, allow them to cool, then peel and slice 1 inch thick. 

 

The Cherry Tomatoes 

Preheat the oven to 450°.  

Rinse the cherry tomatoes and place in a colander to drain. 

Grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a rimmed baking sheet large enough to accommodate the cherry tomatoes.  

Halve the tomatoes and place into the baking sheet, Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, pinch of oregano, salt and pepper; bake for 15 minutes. 

Cool a few minutes and toss in about a dozen of basil leaves and one minced garlic clove. Set on the side. 

 

The Assembly of the Roasted Fish 

Rinse the fish and pat them dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoon of oil and rub it in. Shake over salt and pepper and stuff the cavity of each fish with a parsley sprig, ½ clove of garlic in one piece and salt and pepper. 

Grease a baking pan with the 1 tablespoon of oil, spread the sliced potatoes in one layer and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the fish over the potatoes, sprinkle over the capers and cover with the baked tomatoes. 

Pour the wine over it and bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes, or until it is done. 

 

The Serving
Serve each fish covered with some baked tomatoes and garnish with basil leaves. Serve the potatoes in another dish as the contorno, “side dish”. 

If baking large fish to accommodate two persons, remove the top fillet with the help of a fish fork and a fork and transfer to a dish; remove the skeleton and place the bottom fillet in another dish. Serve covered with baked tomato and garnished with basil leaves.

 

 

Continuation of the introduction: 

 

The most important quality of seafood is freshness. Roasted, baked, broiled, fried, steamed or boiled fresh fish has a nice smell, an agreeable taste that can be strong like swordfish and fish of the blue family, or a subdued taste as in bass, porgies, groupers or mullets or a mild taste as in the whiting, sole, flounders, turbots and snappers, to name few of the most common fish.  

Fish must to be cooked fresh, when the flesh is firm, and all of its qualities can be savored and appreciated.  

 

Most of the times, in Sicily and in many parts of the world, people living in costal areas usually cook the fish whole and simply dressed with salt. 

When cooking any fish whole, because the skin seals in the moisture, the flesh remains tender and sweet and it develops an inebriating saline scent, that in Sicily we call sapore di mare- the taste of the sea.    

Typically, whole fish are roasted, baked, fried or grilled in heavy iron skillets or in heavy metal grills; boiled fish is usually part of a special diet and is served with mayonnaise or olive oil and lemon dressing or with other condiments; whole fish are rarely cooked in sauce. 

The following preparation, roasted whole fish with potatoes and cherry tomatoes, is not an exclusive Sicilian dish as it is similar to recipes that can be found in many Italian regional and international cuisines.