Brodo di Pesce

Fish Broth

Preparation info

  • Makes about

    2 litres

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Alastair Little's Italian Kitchen

Alastair Little's Italian Kitchen

By Alastair Little

Published 1996

  • About

Remarkably similar to fish soup, this unthickened flavoursome broth is the base for innumerable bouillabaisse-like dishes around Italy’s coastline. In this book it is essential for Minestrone di Razza.


  • 1 hen crab, about 1 kg (ask your fishmonger to kill it and chop it)
  • 4 kg bones and heads of non-oily fish, gills removed and thoroughly rinsed
  • good olive oil
  • 2 celery sticks, coarsely diced
  • 2 onions, peeled and coarsely diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, coarsely diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely diced
  • 1 leek, diced and rinsed
  • 1 large piece orange zest
  • 1 large piece lemon zest
  • 1 large red chilli
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a handful of parsley stalks
  • 500 g tinned tomato pieces
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • a little Pernod or anisette
  • a tiny pinch of powdered saffron
  • salt and pepper


    In a large (very large) pan heat 6 tbsp olive oil, and add the celery, onion, fennel, carrot, leek and zests. Over a brisk heat sweat these until they start to colour, then add the chilli, garlic, bay leaves and parsley stalks. Toss and then add the tomato and wine. Stir and bring this lot to the boil. Throw in the crab bits and the fish bones and heads, stir and then add enough water to barely cover the bones.

    Cook this concoction at a medium simmer, stirring and skimming occasionally, for 1 hour. Allow to cool and then tip into another receptacle through a colander. Allow the debris in the colander to drain thoroughly, pressing on it with the back of a ladle. When you are sure you have extracted all of the juices, discard the debris. Wrap in several plastic bags as it soon gets pongy.

    Put the broth through a fine sieve, again pressing to extract all the liquid, and return to the boil in a clean pan. Skim thoroughly then add the Pernod and saffron, and simmer for an hour until the liquid has reduced by half. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

    The reason for extracting all the solids is to prevent them going rancid, which they quickly do. The cloudy but tasty broth can now be frozen if you wish.