Zuppa Di Pesce (Italian Fish Soup)
This is a great dish that varies by region in Italy. My version is a blend of two regions, Lazio and Campagna. Since I am married to a Roman and my Father was from Amalfi, it all makes perfect sense.
Traditionally a soup invented by Fishmongers, whom by the end of a work day, might have some fish leftover, that they did not sell during the day. . Letting nothing go to waste, it would come home with them for supper. Zuppa Di pesce was born. This hearty, fish soup, serves 4. Use your fork to remove the goodness from inside the shells. Yes, your hands will get dirty from dipping some bread right into the soup. Who could resist? Enjoy! A light, Pinot Grigio is perfect accompaniment .
8 ounces baby clams
8 ounces mussels
8 ounces squid
12 ounces cod filets or any thick filet such as monkfish or Boston Scrod. (They don't have to be expensive).
1/2 cup diced Spanish onion
2 cloves of garlic diced
3 tablespoons olive oil plus one tablespoon for later in the recipe when you are adding your onions to the pan.
One heavy 8 qt Dutch oven
Tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups diced tomato ( puréed in the blender
One cup of dry white wine
3 cups of water or Fish stock (Homemade, made with shells of Shrimp, crab, etc., brought to a boil and strained through a sieve).
2 teaspoons salt
One teaspoon pepper
One teaspoon red pepper flakes
Or one chili pepper, scraped
Heat your oil in your Dutch oven. When your oil is hot, cook your squid until opaque, in about 5 or 6 minutes. Turning them gently, once or twice. (All fish cooks at a different rate. It's not good to throw everything into the pot at once. You will end up with a rubbery result that will not be edible. Fish is tricky and requries patience).
About 5-6 minutes. Remove from pan. Add your mussels and after a few minutes your clams and cook until clams and mussels fully open in About 6-7 minutes. Add your wine and a pinch of salt. Your chili pepper or red pepper flakes. Let evaporate until about a 1/3 of the liquid is left in the pan and all your shells are open.
Remove from pan and drain your remaining liquid.and reserve with your clams and squid. Add one tablespoon more olive oil and heat. Add your onions and garlic. Cook until fragrant and slighlty golden, being careful not to burn. At this point, when your oil is hot, add your paste, sauté for a few minutes, then add your tomatoes and cook . Cook until your liquid reduces some, about 6-8 minutes.. Add your fish back to the Pan and mix. Add your water and mix again. At this point add your filets of Cod. Do not cut them up.
You don't want it to disintegrate while cooking. It is absolutely wrong to cut them into chunks. You just want it to seperate in your cooking liquid. Submerge than gently and give them mix.
Cook for approximately 10-12 minutes more on low-medium heat. Your fish filets will break away gently on their own. Your liquid will thicken some too. Approximate cooking time is about 30 minutes from start to finish.
This is one of those dishes that can be quite intimidating to make. When you taste how good this is, you will make it again and again.
Timing is everything. I have always ordered this in a restaurant, thinking its just to tedious to make. Not true, just takes determination. Traditionally served over crusty , bread pieces, it's hard to pass up. Buon appetito!
Special Note: If you are using Frozen products, such as clams in water, mussels, cod, etc. Be sure to look for products that are frozen in their natural state and are preserved as naturally as possible. This can be tricky, but not impossible. Always rinse off their liquid. There are many good quality,frozen seafood products out there. Yes, fresh is always best and the way they make this in Italy. Don't give up hope. If these items are not available to you fresh. It still may be worth a try. The result may surprise you. Buon Appetito!