Grilled Swordfish

Grilled Swordfish steaks with lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil
Grilled Swordfish steaks with lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil

Grilled Swordfish Recipe

Head to Bagnara Calabra, located on a tiny sliver of the Tyrrhenian coast, during the month of July and you’ll encounter the swordfish sagra (or festival of the swordfish) to honor local fisherman.  The sagra, like all food festivals in Italy, honor not only the food product but the people and traditions surrounding the region (in the case of festival of the swordfish, it’s the Bagnarese fishermen have been catching swordfish for over 2000 years (though recently with illegal nets as opposed to traditional spears) that are glorified and celebrated. We’ve had a long standing love affair with the following grilled swordfish dish and we hope you give it a try.

the picture is taken from Pellegrina looking down on the sea coast town of Bagnara Calabra.
the picture is taken from Pellegrina looking down on the sea coast town of Bagnara Calabra.

Local, southern Italian, cooks prepare many variations of swordfish including, grilled swordfish (which is often marinated), swordfish involtini, and a wonderful pasta dish made with swordfish sauce.  A typical grilled swordfish recipe from Bagnara includes quickly grilling the fish and then finishing the dish in a sauce comprised of olives, capers, and fresh tomato sauce.  Another popular way to cook swordfish from the surrounding hill towns above Bagnara (one of which is my parent’s hometown of Pellegrina) is to slowly caramelize local red onions (from Tropea) and lemon slices in extra virgin olive and then serve over grilled swordfish steaks (this is my favorite swordfish recipe).

The following grilled swordfish recipe includes marinating the 1/2 inch slices of swordfish in plenty of lemon zest, freshly ground black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.  An option for any swordfish dish are onions, especially ones which are quickly pan sauteed with olive oil and garlic.

Grilled Marinated Swordfish Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6-8
  • 2-3 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • The zest of one large lemon
  • Thinly sliced pieces from one large lemon (you can use the same lemon above)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ⅕-2 pounds of swordfish cut into ½ - ¾ inch slices, you should be able to get about 8-10 slices out of the steaks
  • Handful of capers
  • Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • ⅓ cup of black olives (gaeta), pitted, crushed, and chopped.
  • ¼ cup of dry white wine
  • 3-4 ripe tomatoes with the seeds removed (optional)
  1. Reduce the thickness of the swordfish steaks to about ½-3/4 inch slices, you should be able to do this at home with a sharp chef's knife.
  2. Rub each side of the swordfish steaks with plenty of lemon zest, Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Place the steaks in a large zip-loc back and add just enough extra virgin olive oil to coat all the steaks. Marinate, in the fridge, for 2-3 hours.
  3. Remove the steaks and grill, preferably via an outdoor grill, for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the steaks to a plate.
  4. In a large pan, add about 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive and saute the garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add the lemon slices, capers, dried oregano and olives and cook for 5-10 minutes on a medium flame. Add the wine and swordfish steaks and cook for another 3-4 minutes (just enough to finish the fish and evaporate the alcohol from the wine)
  5. If you've like to add the optional tomatoes, add them with the capers, olives, and lemon slices (make sure to hand crush the tomatoes and catch as many of the seeds as possible).
Most swordfish is sold in 1-2 inch thick steaks and I prefer to reduce the thickness of the fish to about ½ - ¾ inch steaks. It's much easier to work with thinner steaks and I find the eating experience nicer as well (swordfish is a dry fish, inherently, and keeping the thickness down ensures a better cooking process and eating experience).

The folks over at the site Food52 also have a good “your best swordfish recipe” article, featuring 48 swordfish recipes.


  1. just found your site through a Facebook friend who linked to it. Bravissimo, Vincenzo! E sto rubando la tua ricetta per pescespada calabrese.

  2. Adri Barr Crocetti

    Hi Vince,

    Complimenti! That sounds fabulous!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.