April 21, 2010

The Sicilians and Italians Can Be Friends

I am told that my Great Grandpa Tocco could do amazing things with seafood.  Great Grandma Tocco was a chef among chefs; the kitchen was her domain, but the grill, that was Grandpa Tocco’s territory. My mom has memories of him cooking fish outside on a make shift grill over hot coals. Using long strands of oregano, he would baste the fish with moiggi- a Sicilian salsa made with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, oregano and parsley that has been left to sit for a good couple of hours so that the flavors intensify then meld together to create a harmonious experience for the taste buds. How good does that sound?

I guess I should explain that Grandpa and Grandma Tocco were my Papa’s parents- not Nonna’s.  A remarkable cook in her own right, Nonna’s mother passed away when Nonna was first married. It was Grandma Tocco who took Nonnna under her wing and trained her in Sicilian cooking. That’s right. Nonna married a Sicilian. For those of you who may be unaware, an Italian marrying a Sicilian is something akin to a Red Sox fan marrying a Yankee.  Pure treachery. Well, Nonna and Papa somehow pulled it off and the worst that happened is that the so-called “Sicilian temper” was indeed passed down to the kids… and to the grandkids for the matter.


I know someone else who can do amazing things with seafood, and he’s not even Sicilian. Both seafood and grilling are my Dad’s domain at home. He is, in my humble opinion, quite the master.  He will tell you that the best way to cook fish with moiggi is to grill the fish until it’s slightly underdone, transfer it to a tinfoil tray, with the moiggi on the bottom, place the fish on top, add a little more sauce and set it back on the grill, cover and finish cooking. This way the fish doesn’t take on too much of the flavor of the moiggi and everyone gets along. Swordfish, halibut, sea bass, and blue fish are all excellent with moiggi. If you don’t feel like grilling, you can always bake the fish in the moiggi in the oven (just don’t tell my Dad!).

There is one more thing to note about the following recipe. I have absolutely no idea how to spell it. I have consulted my cookbooks, the web, my mother, and Nonna herself. No one knows how to spell “moiggie”. I reminded Nonna that she speaks Italian and should know this. Her response? "Moggie is Sicilian; I never could understand a word of Sicilian!"

1 can whole Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large handful Italian parsley, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Good quality dried oregano to taste 
Optional: A couple shakes of hot pepper

If there is a dominant flavor to this “sauce” it really should be the oregano. Not that it should over power the other flavors. The end result should be brightly flavored. What makes moiggi so refreshing is that you can actually taste each ingredient, and it doesn’t steal the show away from the fish.

In a large bowl combine the crushed tomatoes with a couple of good “glugs” of olive oil. Add the parsley, garlic and oregano. Stir to combine, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let sit for at least 2 hours before using.


  1. I loved the part about your father!

  2. Can we have a phonetic spelling, for pronunciation purposes? Is it "moi-gee", "mo-ee-gee", "mo-ig-gi"...? Enquiring minds want to know how to tell people what this amazingly yummy thing is, and maybe even pretend like we've got some Sicillian in us, too. ;)

  3. My mom makes this sauce...but we call it 'amoggio' but we probably messed up how to say it over the years...we use it as a dip for bread, divine!

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  5. Jennifer, A hah! I bet your family has it right. Google generated more relevant results for 'amoggio' than for 'moiggi'. Mystery solved, thanks!