Pesce in cartoccio (whole fish roasted in a tin foil pouch)

Pesce in cartoccio (whole fish roasted in a tin foil pouch)
Fortunato Mazzone in his Italian realm, centre, with (left) his pesce in cartoccio and, right, his Pasta e Fazul, previously published in this series. (Photos supplied; collage by Tony Jackman)

In this new series, I explore Italy’s cucina povera, the food of the country’s poor people, which is very much in vogue. First off, I share my recipe for pesce in cartoccio (fish in foil).

La cucina povera, or poor people’s food, is absolutely in vogue in Italy and around the world at the moment. Even Michelin-starred chefs have seized upon these centuries-old traditional foods served on the tables of the common people in rural Italy and turned them into fashionable food served in restaurants.

These dishes are not only delicious and wholesome but often very cheap to make. Perfect for contemporary South Africa.

For pesce in cartoccio, I prefer to use bream, but you can use baby kingklip, kabeljou, snapper or even freshwater tilapia.

While baking in a hot oven, the skin should crisp up slightly and the wine and natural aromas will steam the fish in the pouch to perfection.

This is a dish fit for royalty.

Forti’s pesce in cartoccio

Forti’s pesce in cartoccio. (Photo: Supplied)

(Serves 2)


2 whole plate-size fish (400g–500g), gutted and scaled

4 stalks of celery and the leaves, chopped

1 large white onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

100ml white wine (or lemon juice if the wine is not appropriate)

1 x 400g can of whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, pulped by hand

Handful of chopped parsley

Handful of rinsed capers

Handful of depipped black olives, such as kalamata

Freshly ground salt and pepper

1 tsp paprika

Fresh chopped chilli, optional

50ml extra virgin olive oil

50g butter mashed with 1 anchovy


Place the whole fish on its side. Season the fish well with salt and pepper all over, inside and out. Lightly score the skin, diagonally.

Rub in the seasoning. Stuff the stomach cavity with some diced onion, a clove of garlic, chopped parsley, chopped celery and celery leaves, 1 Tbsp pulped tomato, and a few capers and olives.

Place the fish on a large sheet of tin foil big enough to wrap the entire fish in.

Create a pouch, then add 1 tsp paprika, 25ml olive oil, a knob of butter and 50ml of white wine.

Randomly sprinkle on some capers, olives, celery, onion and (optional) chilli. Seal the pouch.

Place the fish on a steel roasting pan and bake it in a hot oven for 10–12 minutes (225℃ at least).

Peel back the edges of the pouch and you will see that a beautiful sauce has been created within.

Serve some mashed potato, plain rice or risotto with the fish to take advantage of the beautiful pan juices.

Just be careful of fine bones. DM

Fortunato Mazzone is the boss at the Forti Group of restaurants.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options