Food in Detective Stories Venice and Sicily

I have a collection of old French detective stories with covers from the 60’s and 70’s. I then started to think about food in detective stories

In many detective novels there are those detectives who are almost as interested in eating as they are in solving the crime.The commissaire Jules Maigret is spoilt by the home cooking of his wife, but doesn’t mind a dinner in a good bistro or brasserie. Then there are the refined tastes of Inspector Montalbano in Sicily and Pepe Carvalho in Barcelona. After that comes Commissario Guido Brunetti in Venice, whose wife serves up delicious multicourse meals at home, and who oftens takes little cicheti in wine bars along with Venetian sandwiches eaten on the run. In the Scandinavian novels my favoutite is Martin Beck.The Swedish dishes can be more sombre than the dishes of Sicily and Venice, (given they come out of the postwar period) but equally appetising in their own way;No home cooking with Martin, (he is divorced) but has been known to put together a great dinner party.

Inspector Montalbano is a series of detective stories written by Andrea Camilleri. Salvo Montalbano is Police Inspector in the fictitous town of Vigata in  Sicily. In reality the town of Porto Empedocie. Inspector Montalbano is a great food lover, whether he is eating the dinners made for him by his housekeeper or eating in one of the two or three restaurants he frequents, where the menu seems never to be presented only whispered suggestions and always taken.

citrus paper

A Dish for Inspector mullet wholesicilian rougetRed Mullet with a chickpea pancake and green olive pureé.

Triglie e panissa.

Serves two

2 x 250g red mullets, cleaned and scaled

4 tablespoons olive oil

flour for dusting the fish, salt and pepper

Oven temperature at 200°c

Dry the fish thoroughly,  then dust in seasoned flour. Have ready a large frying pan on a medium to high heat. Add the oil to the pan and fry the fish on one side until golden in colour. Turn the fish over and colour the other side. Put the fry pan in the oven (handle should be oven proof) if not have a baking dish in the oven ready to take the fish. Cook at high heat 200°c for 10 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with the point of a knife.


100g chickpea flour, pinch of salt, 200ml water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, oil for frying.

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add the water little at a time, stirring constantly. Add the olive oil, mix into batter. Let the mixture rest for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes oil the frying pan and place on medium heat. Pour in batter from a ladle to cover the base lightly. Cook until golden then turn and cook the other side.

Green olive Tapénade

Provençal in origin, the name coming from the provinçal word for capers,Tapéna. Similar sauces are found in Sicily.

100g of stoned green olives, black olives are more usual, but I like the colour here. 20g of desalted and rinsed capers, 20g of anchovies,50ml of good olive oil, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Mix all ingredients except lemon juice in a food processor, streaming in olive oil to mix. Add lemon juice to taste. Better made the day before, as tastes blend together.





The favourite Pasta of Commissairio Brunetti is Penne Rigate.  

                       Here is a recipe for Penne rigate ai fagioli e pancetta.

For 4

350g penne rigate

200g pancetta cut into dice

250g borlotti beans (cooked)

a few sprigs of rosemary chopped finely

60g parmesan freshly grated

75ml extra virgin olive oil

Rinse and drain the borlotti beans. In a non stick fry pan cook the pancetta with 30ml of oil. When it is golden and crisp add the beans and mix together. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet, always best, strain the pasta, tip into the pan with the beans and pancetta add the parmesan and rosemary, toss for a minute and serve in hot bowls. I have added a peeled and diced tomato for colour. Extra parmesan can be added.

penne rigate ai fagioli e pancetta

6 thoughts on “Food in Detective Stories Venice and Sicily

  1. Hi Sue, Only got round to looking at this properly now, well done, really interesting Impeccable taste as usual, you should really consider a book. Aran says it’s a shame all you knowlege of cooking is not recorded in a book. People are still talking about your restaurant in Baltimore

    Where can I get chick pea flour??

    Love the pics tooMxxx

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