Though there are scores of famous Italian culinary creations, Cacciucco Alla Livornese is one that is quite popular. It’s a hearty fish stew with origins that stretch back centuries to Livorno, a Tuscan port town. Cacciucco was once a simple fisherman’s dinner, made with the leftover catch that was unsold at market.
Since then, however, it has become a sought-after delicacy in fine restaurants, and remains one of the region’s most-beloved dishes. It is said that there should be at least five types of fish in any cacciucco—one for each “C” in the name—to go along with a variety of vegetables and spices. Our version has four, but you can add scallops, clams, or anything you’d like. Buon appetito!
1¼ lbs. calamari, cleaned, and cut in 1-inch strips
1 lbs. mussels, debearded and scrubbed
7 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, and 1 whole garlic clove
¼ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped to yield cup
1 celery stalk, diced into ¼-inch pieces
1 Spanish onion, diced into inch pieces
½ lb. cod or other flaky white fish
1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup of dry white wine
1¼ lbs. fresh or canned tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
8 large shrimp or prawns, peeled and deveined
16 slices of Italian peasant bread, toasted or grilled
- Clean all the seafood. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan (with a lid). Heat on medium-high until hot, but not smoking. Add the mussels and cover, steaming until the mussels open (about 5 minutes). Remove the mussels, leaving the juices in the pan.
- In a sauté pan, add the remaining oil and heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the chili pepper, celery, parsley, sliced garlic, and onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the garlic turns golden brown. Add the wine, allowing it to boil and then evaporate. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt to taste, and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in 2 cups of water, the reserved mussel juices and the remaining fish (whole) and bring to a boil. Let the mixture cook at a bare boil for about 20 minutes uncovered, until the fish is flaky and opaque.
- Place the fish in a wide soup tureen and set aside in a warm place. Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the shrimp, then lower the heat and let simmer for about 3 minutes, until the shrimp are opaque. Add the calamari and the shucked mussels. Allow it to simmer for about 2 minutes until all the calamari is cooked.
- Add some flavor to the toasted bread by cutting the remaining garlic clove in half, and using the cut end to rub the bread.
- Serve the soup in warmed bowls with the garlic toast on the side.