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Fusilli with swordfish and pistachios

For both the extra flavor and bright green color that seems fake but actually isn’t, try to find the Sicilian pistacchio di Bronte for this dish. It may prove difficult abroad but at least make sure that you use plain, unsalted and unroasted pistachios.

Bronte is a small town on the western slopes of Mount Etna that is famous for its pistacchi, which are grown around the volcanic lava rock by feeding off the fertile ash and can only be harvested every other year.

The Bronte pistacchi can transform the taste of a gelato if you’re lucky enough to find one using these particular pistacchi, and the town of Bronte itself has an interesting connection to English history. Admiral Nelson was in Sicily after the Battle of the Nile and came to the aid of the Bourbon King Ferdinand IV in 1799 after the French had taken Naples, assisted by Neapolitan revolutionaries. Nelson helped to expel them all after which there took place a particularly bloody series of executions, including the unfortunate Francesco Caracciolo whose name lives on today in Naples.

Nelson was rewarded by Ferdinand with the title of Duke of Bronte together with a large nearby estate which included a fortified monastery, now known as the Castello di Nelson. The property remained in the hands of his relatives and descendants (the Hood, Viscount Bridport family) until the early 1980s when it was sold to the comune di Bronte. Coincidence maybe, but it was not long after Nelson’s new title was bestowed than the upwardly mobile father of the famous literary Brontë sisters changed the family name from Brunty to Brontë.

Ingredients for two people:

280 g (10 oz) fusilli

150 g (5.5 oz) good quality fresh swordfish cut into about half-inch cubes

3-4 large prawns, shelled and deveined and chopped in half

cup of shelled, unsalted pistachios, pan-fried dry for a few minutes then roughly chopped

10-12 small cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 tablespoon of capers

2 cloves of garlic

½ glass of white wine

extra virgin Italian olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

a handful of fresh basil if in season, if not then flat-leaf Italian parsley finely chopped


Fusilli with swordfish and pistachios requires just a few minutes of preparation and then can be cooked in less time than it takes to boil the pasta, which is normally about 11-12 minutes.

1. Put the pistachios in a pan and with the heat quite high give them a few minutes to toast, without burning them, then chop them up and put them to one side.

2. Put the fusilli into salted water on a rolling boil.

3. Oil a large enough pan to be used to mix in the pasta later, add the two garlic cloves either peeled or in camicia and let them color only a little on medium heat before discarding them.

4. Season the swordfish cubes then turn the heat up and add them to the pan. Stir them for a minute as they cook, add the prawns for another minute, then add the wine and let it bubble up to allow the alcohol to evaporate.

5. Add the tomatoes and capers and simmer for 5 minutes.

6. Taste the pasta and while it’s still al dente, a minute before it’s ready, add the fusilli to the pan using a slotted spoon.

7. Mix well, add the basil or parsley with a good slug of olive oil and mix again. If it looks too dry then add a little of the reserved cooking water. Finally sprinkle on the chopped pistachios and serve.

fusilli with swordfish, prawns, capers and pistachios


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