Cacciucco – Livornese Fish Soup

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Serves: 2
  • Level: easy

‘Cacciucco is a truly Italian dish from the North of Tuscany in Livorno. Packed full of flavour with prawns, mussels and monkfish for taste of the sea. This dish also calls for yummy fresh bread to mop up the delicious sauce!’

Leo Williamson
'Oh, now this is the taste of Tuscany. A dish that made me fall in love with mussels and shell fish.'

What you need

4 large whole raw prawns

3 or 4 handfuls of mussels

2 handfuls of clams

Small monkfish tail

500ml light fish stock or light chicken stock

125ml white wine

2 medium tomatoes

1 large banana shallot

1 clove garlic

Half a red or green chilli

1 pinch saffron

Generous bunch of parsley

Lemon



Dad's Recipe Tales

Mrs WDC’s favourite

I’m not sure what makes this particularly alla Livornese. I followed a recipe once but now I just follow my nose (or should I say tongue). The basic ingredients are pretty obvious: fish, seafood and liquid from cooking the first two ingredients. It ought to have at least prawns and mussels or clams, but can include squid and octopus. The style is light – with a saffron-tinged broth only gently strengthened by shallots, fresh tomato, garlic, chilli and parsley. Use the fish bones for a stock and make sure you keep the precious cooking liquor from the clams or mussels.

The whole point of this dish is its freshness and unctuous tastes of the sea. If you are not sitting on a Tuscan villa terrace overlooking the coast – then do the next best thing: set the table with a couple of candles, a crisp bottle of white wine and a basket of crusty bread. Make more than strict individual portions and keep the rest in a big tureen in the centre of the table – that way dinner can be extended almost indefinitely as you keep going back to pick-out any forgotten clams or mussels or find just one more ladle of broth to mop-up with the last of the bread…

How Dad Cooked It

  1. Clean the mussels and clams. Under running water, use a small knife to pull off the beards from the mussels. If the mussels are heavy with barnacles these need to be prised or cut off (though most farmed mussels do not have barnacles). Discard any mussels that do not close when tapped. Wash and clean the clams, keep mussels and clams in separate bowls of cold water.
  2. Clean and prepare the seafood and fish. Cut the membrane from the monk fish – this is fiddly and tiresome but worth the effort. Cut in to small pieces. Wash the prawns.
  3. Mise en place. Chop the shallot finely, chop the garlic in to fine slices and chop chilli and parsley. Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 10 seconds and remove. With a sharp knife remove the skins. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Chop the remaining flesh. Keep each ingredient in separate little bowls or plates.
  4. Cook the mussels and clams. Drain the mussels and place in a sauce pan with lid. Put onto a high heat shaking the pan as the steam escapes. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes and check when all the mussels have opened, strain the mussels over a bowl and retain the liquid. Discard any mussels that have refused to open during cooking. Cook the clams in the same way and strain.
  5. Sweat the shallot. Use large deep heavy pan on medium heat. After 5 minutes, add the garlic and chilli and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. The shallots and garlic should be soft.
  6. Add the liquid. Pour in the wine and turn up the heat to high – bring the wine to the boil and burn-off the alcohol and reduce for couple of minutes. Add the stock and saffron and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer gently.
  7. Prepare the mussels and clams. Using a spoon or your fingers remove the meat from half the mussels and clams, discarding the empty shells. Strain the liquid into another bowl making sure and grit and residues are left behind. Put this liquid into the broth.
  8. Cook the soup. Put the monk fish and the prawns and half the parsley into the broth and cook gently for 5 minutes or until both are done. Add all the mussels and clams and warm through.
  9. Taste, season and garnish. Season with salt and pepper and lemon. Add a drizzle of good olive oil and sprinkle over the remaining parsley.
  10. Serve. Pour into a tureen and ladle into bowls. Serve with lots of crusty bread.
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