Cacciucco ☆

Cacciucco (pronounced ka-CHOOK-ko, almost like a sneeze!) alla Livornese is a thick, dark fish soup, whose name in Italian means “Livorno mixture”. I think I first heard of it while watching Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel’s Delicious Destinations. It sounded so good, I just had to try it!

It originated in the west coastal towns of Italy, whose fishermen used the unsold portion of their daily catch to make their nightly fish stew. Thus, a variety of fish went into the pot. Today, tradition dictates that at least 5 different types of fish be used, one for each “c” in the word cacciucco. I can’t resist the pun to call it a “c”-food recipe.

Not having access to the Italian fisherman’s rejects, I have tried to substitute ingredients that may be found in local supermarkets.

  • 8 basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, minced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ lb cleaned squid, cut into 1” rings
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp low salt tomato paste
  • 1 (14-oz) can chopped low-salt tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 cup clam juice, unsalted fish stock, or water
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp <salt>, or to taste
  • ½ lb swordfish, in bite-sized chunks
  • ½ lb cod, red snapper, or other firm fish, in bite-size pieces
  • ½ lb monk fish, in bite-sized pieces
  • ½ lb sea scallops
  • ½ lb medium raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, and halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6–8 slices of bread, toasted

In a food processor or by hand, mince the onion, garlic, parsley, sage, and basil together. Heat the oil in a stock pot and stir in the minced mixture. Cook over low heat until the ingredients soften, about 1 minute.

Add the squid to the pot, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the wine and cook until the liquid has reduced by one half, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Lower the heat and stir in the tomatoes, clam juice, <salt>, and cayenne. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then add the swordfish, cod or snapper, and monkfish. Cover with a lid and simmer another 5 minutes, until these fish are just firm. Carefully fold in the scallops and shrimp, replace the lid, and cook another 3 minutes, until the shrimp has just become opaque. Stir in the lemon juice and correct the seasoning, if necessary.

Ladle the soup over the toasted bread slices and serve piping hot.

Serves 6–8.