Swordfish and Fennel Risotto

From Allan Shewchuk

2015 Jan/Feb

There’s no better way to emphasize risotto’s ability to break the north-south divide of Italy than with a Sicilian dish. Swordfish are stalked in the Strait of Messina between Calabria and Sicily, where the two southern regions are at kissing distance. Fennel grows wild in southern Italy and the anise flavour it adds to this dish is divine. Be sure to stir the risotto gently once you add the fish so that you keep the nice chunky texture. Serve this with a white wine from Sicily’s Planeta vineyard.


  • 6 c. seafood broth
  • 8 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, including stalks and fronds, finely chopped with 2 T. of chopped fronds set aside for garnish
  • 8 oz. swordfish steak, cut into half-inch cubes
  • 2 c. arborio or other risotto rice
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste


Bring the broth to a simmer in a saucepan set over low heat. Heat half the oil in a medium pan over low heat. Add the onion, fennel and 2 to 3 T. of the broth and cook, stirring frequently, until the fennel is very soft and the broth is gone, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the swordfish and continue cooking, stirring gently, until the swordfish is cooked nearly through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large heavy pot (I use my Le Creuset) over low heat. When ready to start the rice, turn up the heat to high, add the rice and start stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to coat the rice in the oil and to kick-start the cooking process. After about 3 minutes, add the wine and continue to stir – it will evaporate almost immediately.

Ladle about 1 c. of the broth into the rice and stir slowly but constantly, until the liquid starts to get absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat this step by adding broth and stirring until the broth gets low in the pot. With arborio rice you need to start checking for doneness after about 15 minutes of adding broth – it will start to get chalky and then in short order will get to be al dente, which is how you want it to finish.

When you think it’s done, add some broth and the swordfish mixture and stir carefully so you don’t break up the swordfish cubes. After two minutes, check the rice again and, if needed, add some more broth. Season the risotto with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the reserved chopped fennel fronds. Serve immediately.