This soup finds its origins in the Tuscan coastal town of Livorno, where it’s been made for centuries using fresh local fish. Variations appear all over coastal Italy. Traditionally it is made with at least five types of fish and shellfish, one for each “c” in its name.
This soup recipe may look intimidating because of the lengthy list of ingredients, but once you’ve done the shopping, the preparation is simple. It is a perfect soup for this time of year when it is still chilly out but you’re trying to lighten up your diet and eat healthier. It’s also perfect for Lent, or for those of you on the Keto diet.
One fun thing about this recipe is it gives me the opportunity to show off some of the photos I have taken in Italy over the years, like this one, taken in Positano on the Amalfi Coast.
Here is another, taken outside a restaurant in Sorrento, which is not in Tuscany, but you get the idea :- )
The first two pictures below were taken on the Isle of Capri. The other two were taken in Sorrento.
Shopping: Okay, time to get to the recipe. But first a few words about shopping. You’ll see that there is flexibility on the seafood selection. I wouldn’t make my decisions until I get to my local store or seafood shop and see what is fresh and won’t break your bank account. It’s simple, the better the seafood you put in here, the better it will be. You wantI recommend a mix of fish and your favorite shellfish.
If you live in Seattle, it might even be worth a trip to Pike’s Place Market for the best selection. I would think (hopefully), many of you from other regions around the world have something similar near you.
While you’re there, pick up a couple of good loaves of rustic bread to accompany this. You’ll place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of each bowl and will want some to soak up the amazing juices. If you are on Keto, you can use Keto bread or skip it all together.
- 3 tablespoon cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion—finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery—finely chopped
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian Parsley—chopped
- 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary—chopped fine
- pinch of saffron (optional)
- pinch dried crushed red pepper
- 1-1/2 tablespoon flour
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 28 oz. can Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes—crushed by hand
- 1 quart water
- 1 pound fish (such as 8 oz. each of Sea Bass and Orange Roughy)—rough cut into bite size squares
- 1 pound shellfish (such as 5-6 oz. each of shrimp, scallops, & calamari)
- 2 teaspoon sea salt
- black pepper – fresh ground
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 1/2 cup half & half or cream (optional)
- 6 slices toasted rustic bread (small enough to fit in bottom of bowls)
- additional chopped Italian Parsley and Extra Virgin olive oil for garnish
- Put on some Italian music. Frankie’s Recommendation: the soundtrack from Il Postino.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Add onion and celery and sauté for about 7 minutes, until it begins to soften. Add garlic and sauté an additional 3 minutes.
- Stir in herbs and crushed red peppers. Sauté for about 2 minutes. Add flour and sauté for one minute.
- Add wine and cook until most of the liquid evaporates (this step is known as deglazing). Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the tomatoes with their juices. Add water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add all seafood to soup. Increase heat to low-medium and cook 3 to 5 minutes until seafood is cooked through, (as seen by opaque color).
- Add salt and several twists of fresh ground black pepper. Add optional sugar and half & half if desired. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
- Place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of each serving bowl. Ladle soup over. Garnish with parsley and drizzle with Extra Virgin olive oil.
♦ This recipe is very flexible. I used two types of fish and a Seafood Blend from Trader Joe’s which contains shrimp, bay scallops and calamari rings. For the fish, any thick cuts of firm fish will work well. For the shellfish, if you want to use clams or mussels in their shells, as part of your shellfish blend, you will need to purchase triple the weight to compensate for the weight of the shells.
♦ Italians do not generally mix dairy with seafood, thus my optional half & half (or cream) goes outside of tradition. However, I really like the extra layer of savory flavor it adds.
♦ I added a little saffron to my soup and liked the flavor enhancement. Saffron can be added to a cup of the water and heated to dissolve it, or you can crush the threads with a mortar and pestle or use a simple method of placing it on a cutting board and crushing it with the side of a chef’s knife.
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