We analyse, theoretically and experimentally, the nature of solitonic vortices (SV) in an elongated Bose-Einstein condensate. In the experiment, such defects are created via the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, when the temperature of a gas of sodium atoms is quenched across the BEC transition, and are imaged after a free expansion of the condensate. By using the Gross-Pitaevskii equation, we calculate the in-trap density and phase distributions characterizing a SV in the crossover from an elongate quasi-1D to a bulk 3D regime. The simulations show that the free expansion strongly amplifies the key features of a SV and produces a remarkable twist of the solitonic plane due to the quantized vorticity associated with the defect. Good agreement is found between simulations and experiments.