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Fish fillets with Onion, Anchovies & Capers
April 2024
Reading time 1 Minute

Mamma and I would make this dish together when she was living on her own

It's salty, sour and a little sweet, and reminded her of the quintessential Venetian dish, bigoli in salsa. This recipe is an amalgam of a couple of Marcella Hazan recipes with a few of Mamma's suggestions thrown in. I use whatever firm white fish I can find at a good price from the fishmonger - often flathead tails, but also sustainably caught swordfish or flake. This dish works really well with a side of potatoes or fresh bread, to mop up the delicious sauce.
  • 50 g salted capers
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 brown or white onions, finely sliced into half-rings
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 800g firm-fleshed skinless white fish fillets
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 60ml dry white wine
  • 2 generous tbsp white wine vinegar
  • handful of chopped parsley, for sprinkling

Place the capers in a small bowl, cover with water and set aside for at least 10 minutes to remove the excess salt. 

In a lidded frying pan large enough to fit all the fish in a single layer, warm half the olive oil over medium–low heat. Add the onion and anchovies and saute for 10–12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and soft, but not yet golden. The anchovies should have completely dissolved. Add the garlic. After a few minutes, add the drained capers and stir them through. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl; it’s fine if some of the oil remains in the pan. 

Cut the fish fillets to whatever size you prefer – from steaks to bite-sized chunks. Dust with flour and sprinkle on some salt. 

Warm the remaining olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Slip in the fish pieces. Cook on one side for a few minutes, until you see the flesh starting to turn white within the flaky chunks. How long this takes depends on the size and type of fish – let the colour be your guide. Carefully flip the fish overusing a spatula, then cook the second side for a minute or two.

Turn the heat up a notch and add the wine. Let the wine partially evaporate, then add the sauteed onion mixture. Check the fish pieces haven’t stuck to the base of the pan by carefully lifting them up with the spatula. Pour in the vinegar, put the lid on, then reduce the heat so the sauce is simmering. Leave to simmer for about five minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and the flavours have melded. 

Remove from the heat, taste for salt and scatter with the parsley just before serving.  

Recipe extracted from At Nonna’s Table by Paola Bacchia
At Nonna’s Table by Paola Bacchia (Smith Street Books, £26)  At Nonna’s Table by Paola Bacchia (Smith Street Books, £26) 

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