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Fresh Tuna - Tonno Fresco

Fresh tuna is a wonderful treat, especially in the summer


Alessandro Montini, Fishmonger in Florence's Mercato di San Lorenzo, with a fresh tuna.

Alessandro Montini, Fishmonger in Florence's Mercato di San Lorenzo, with a fresh tuna.

Kyle Phillips © 2006 Licensed to About.Com
Mention tuna and most people think of cans. However, it hasn't always been so: all along the Sicilian coast there are villages called tonnare that people would inhabit during the tuna season; when the tuna arrived (they're migratory fish) the men would take to the sea, stringing nets that hung down from the surface like curtains, forming a corridor that guided the tuna into a final net with a bottom strung between the boats or in an inlet. Once the school was in this "chamber of death"the men would pull the net to the surface, bringing the tuna with it, and the mattanza -- the slaughter -- would begin, the sea running red as the villagers gathered much of the animal protein they would need to survive the coming year.

Alas, like many other things, the traditional tonnara has fallen into decline, a victim of increasing industrial pollution in the Mediterranean and overfishing by commercial fleets that operate out at sea. However, some tonnare survive, and aside from the use of outboard motors and synthetic materials in the nets, little has changed in the fishing technique. The tonnare located where the tuna no longer arrive, you wonder? Many are in strikingly beautiful spots, so they're being converted into summer resorts -- sad, in a way, but at least they're being preserved.

Returning to tuna, much of the catch was certainly preserved, in part by packing in oil. However, there are also many ways of preparing fresh tuna. Don't have tuna where you live? Ask your fishmonger. Other large fish of the same family should also work well in these recipes, as might other large fish, for example swordfish: Here are some other recipes with tuna from the Net. They're not necessarily Italian, but they do look like they'd be good:

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