Luccio alla mantovana (Pike at the Mantua way)


Previously I suggested recipes with European Perch, Zander and Walleye…now it’s the time of the Pike, probably the fish with the best tasting flesh in my opinion (if properly cooked), between the freshwater fish.

Not many people know it, or at least not many people know how to cook it, probably the fact that it has many fish bones scares many of them…but it’s really a pity to lose the opportunity of tasting such a good fish! At least sometimes 🙂

As you can see in the section “About”, I grew up on a lake, and one of my uncles is a fish seller, so I always ate fish, and I also went fishing for many years on the lake, so pike was quite a usual fish for me 🙂 As first recipe with this beautiful and tasty fish I chose a traditional recipe from Mantua province, which is not far from my lake (as many other italian regional traditional recipes, there are for sure some details changing from village to village and from family to family), and the fish is usually paired with Polenta, often grilled on the fire (the Polenta). Maybe it’s not an eye-catching dish, but sure it’s very good and tasty, and healthy 😉

This is also another recipe that requires a bit of time, but it is really worth it, trust me.

INGREDIENTS (4-5 people)

  • 1 Pike of about 1,2/1,3 Kg 
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 celery rib
  • pepper in grain 
  • 2/3 cloves
  • half glass of white vinegar
  • rock coarse salt
  • water

For the sauce:

  • capers, about 30g 
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • the fillets of 4-5 salt-cured anchovies, the ones in salt preferably, otherwise in olive oil
  • half glass of dry white wine
  • extra virgin olive oil, 6/7 tablespoons
  • parsley

This recipe is divided in 2 phases: first we must boil the fish, then we have to remove all the fish bones very carefully and we have to add the sauce.

  1. First of all, after we cleaned and washed well the fish, we must boil it. You can do it in 2 ways: the traditional way is to use a specific fish kettle, so it will be easier to take it out when it’s ready. Otherwise choose the biggest pot you have, at least 30 cm large probably, so you’ll have enough space to bend the fish. The more you bend the fish and higher is the risk to break it during the boiling time. Then heat some water (enough to cover the whole fish later) together with the carrot, the onion and the celery chopped into big pieces, and the cloves and pepper grains too. When the water starts boiling, add the salt and the vinegar (it will help to mitigate the typical smell of pike’s skin, which is quite pungent) and then the fish. Set the flame on medium-low, it has to simmer, otherwise you could break the body of the fish if it boils to strong. The fish it will be ready in about 25/30 minutes, it depends on its size, a practical test is to insert a fork in its back, and you will feel when it’s ready. Don’t go beyond 30/35 minutes for a fish of that size, otherwise it will become a bit “woody”.
  2. Another good way to do it, maybe the best, is if you have time and the possibility to put the fish in a vacuum bag with all the flavors and a drop of white wine, and then boil it at 70°C for 1 hour.
  3. Now that the fish is boiled, take it out carefully, divide the 2 fillets, remove the spine and the head (but before take the flesh on the head, which is very good), take a chair and sit down 😀 now you have a good  and long job to do: removing every single bone from the fish…if you know the anatomy of the pike, then you already know where are located the Y bones and the other smaller bones too, and the whole process will take about 20/25 minutes to be made. Otherwise count a bit more time.
  4. When you cleaned perfectly the flesh (was it fun, right? 😀 ), put the flesh in a bowl and start to prepare the sauce.
  5. Take the capers and the anchovy fillets, and cut them into pieces, then put them in a pan with about 3 spoons of oil and cook it for some minutes. Add also the garlic, cut into small pieces. Then add the white wine and turn the flame higher until the alcohol is gone. The sauce is almost ready.
  6. Put this sauce on the flesh of the pike, mix well all together, then add other 3/4 tablespoons of olive oil at room temperature, the parsley cut into pieces and mix again all together.
  7. Let it rest in the fridge at least 3/4 hours, to let all the aromas mix together. The best thing is to prepare this dish the day before for the day after, the taste will be more intense.
  8. You can choose to eat it cold (but take it out from the fridge at least 45/60 minutes before eating it, until it reach the room temperature), or you can warm it a little bit in a pan. The best is when it’s served with Polenta. And if you would like, you can add another drizzle of olive oil, that’s never a problem!
  9. Voilà, here it is a boneless pike dish 🙂 Enjoy, possibly with a white wine.

PS: in some variants of this recipe, in the sauce there are also some pickles (grilled bell pepper and sweet small onions). Moreover, it can be served as an appetizer, or as a main/second course…it depends on the size of the dish 🙂



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Rowena says:

    The first time I cooked pike it was a nightmare…I did not know that there would be so many bones! But the taste (I followed a french recipe for quenelles with crayfish sauce) is worth all the work. 🙂


    1. Yes, there is to work with this fish 🙂 but as you say, it’s absolutely worth 🙂


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