Cacciucco

Tuscan Fish Stew

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    6 to 8

Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

The story behind this Tuscan fish stew from Livorno concerns a fisherman’s wife whose husband was lost at sea during a storm. Left alone with many children to feed, she spent the little money she had to buy fish for a soup called cacciucco, adding to the fish the few basic ingredients she had in her kitchen. So successful was the recipe that she managed to find work as a cook. To commemorate her, the soup is kept simple. Although it may vary slightly, it must contain at least five varieties of fresh fish, one for each of the ‘C’s in the recipe’s name.

Ingredients

  • 1.8 kg/4 lb assorted fish in varying sizes including some of the following: hake, monkfish, whiting, scorpion fish, moray eel, conger eel, John Dory, cleaned and gutted
  • 450 g/1 lb octopus and cuttlefish or squid, cleaned
  • 150 ml/¼ pint/ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 dried red chilli, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, 3 chopped and 1 halved
  • 250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup dry white wine
  • 900 g/2 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 12 large raw prawns/shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 15 small, thin slices crusty bread
  • sea salt and ground black pepper
  • about 1 litre/ pints/4 cups simmering fish or vegetable stock, for basting and diluting

Method

  1. Cut the larger fish into generous pieces and leave the smaller ones whole. Keep all the heads, if removed, and set them aside. Cut the octopus and cuttlefish or squid into large pieces.

  2. Put the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion, carrot, celery, parsley, chilli and chopped garlic for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden.
  3. Add the octopus and squid to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they have released their fluid and it has been evaporated. Pour over the white wine. Cook for 2 minutes, until the alcohol has evaporated, then add the tomatoes. Stir and cover.
  4. Simmer for 45 minutes, or until the squid and octopus are tender, then remove them and set aside. Add the fish heads and smaller fish to the pan and stir. Cook for about 25 minutes, basting occasionally with a little hot water or stock.
  5. Pass the sauce and fish through the medium blade of a food mill (mouli) and return to the pan. You should have a smooth, thick sauce. If it is too thick, dilute with a little hot water or stock.

  6. Add the larger whole fish and pieces of fish to the pan and stir gently to coat with the sauce. Simmer together very gently for about 20 minutes.

  7. Return the octopus and squid to the pan, and stir into the sauce. Add the prawns and cover with sauce, using more stock if necessary. Cook for about 15 minutes, until all the seafood is tender.
  8. Toast the bread and rub with the halved garlic clove. Line the sides of a large bowl with the toast.
  9. Raise the heat under the pan and stir the fish and sauce together while it returns to the boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Immediately, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the cacciucco to the bowl lined with toasted bread. Serve immediately.