Today we want to share one of the many Sicilian tradition. We are in the Stretto di Messina, a narrow channel that separates Sicily from the mainland. The Stretto di Messina history is full of myths and amazing legends. The terrible sea monsters of Scilla and Cariddi, narrated by Homer, became a symbol of this channel.
The Stretto di Messina is characterized by strong tidal currents, and it is a migratory route for many species of fish. I spent many years sailing in these waters (on the mainland side of the channel), during my childhood and teenager years, and more than once I found myself surrounded by hundreds of dolphins playing around my boat...a truly incredible experience.
One of these migrating species is the swordfish, which is commonly referred as the "sea gladiator" from the local fishermen and its catch is considered to be almost a ritual by the locals. The most distinctive feature of the catch of the swordfish is the very unique boat use, which is called luntra or feluca. There are three main figures involved with the fishing: the rower, called "u mezziere"; the pitcher, called "u lanzaturi", which is the one holding the harpoon ready to spear the fish; and the "u ntinneri", which is a bit like the orchestra director and coordinates the boat movements during the catch.
The traditional luntre was a unique looking boat, 18ft long, 8ft wide and 4ft draft. It has a central mast 17ft long from where the "ntinnieri" was on watch. Originally, the total crew on board was of 8, which were supported by other people who where directing them by means of white flags.
The swordfish catch was accompanied by many other rituals, such as thanking the "protecting saint" of the luntra by shouting "San Marco e' binidittu" (Saint Mark is blessed) when a swordfish was caught, or to mark a quadruple cross on the swordfish after the caught. Also the colours of the boat were carefully chosen as a token for good luck in the fishing.
Today, the techniques and boats are still very similar to the ancient ones, with some expected change brought from technology, like the use of the engine instead of rowing :)
Not surprising that swordfish is very common in the Sicilian culinary tradition. There is a great variety of recipes, all absolutely amazing: grilled sicilian style swordfish; swordfish caponata; involtini all'agghiotta (which is a typical sauce made with raisings, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, capers, olives and parsley) and, last but not least, the Swordfish pasta.
As many of you would know, here at Original Sicily we want to share Sicilian traditions through the food. This is why we have a very special Swordfish pasta sauce, which we hope will give you a little glimpse of this amazing Sicilian tradition which is the swordfish fishing.
No secret tricks are required to make an amazing Italian pasta dish using our Swordfish pasta sauce. Simply cook the pasta following the instructions, warm up the Original Sicily swordfish sauce, and when the pasta is ready, drain it and mix with the sauce. No other ingredients needed, the sauce is already perfect as it is!
You can buy the swordfish pasta sauce at any time on our website www.originalsicily.co.nz