Zuppa di Pesce:
Abruzzo, Friuli, Romagna, Marche, Veneto: brodetto
Liguria: burrida, cioppin
3 lbs. assorted fish (gray mullet, turbot, St. Peter’s, scorpion fish, squid, octopus, shrimps) or any fish with a firm texture
3 tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 sprigs parsley
2 tbs. olive oil
How to make the Zuppa di pesce:
Fillet the fish with bone and cut the squid and octopus into pieces while reserving the heads and the bone.
Bring six quarters water to a boil in a large pot: add the tomatoes, the fish bones, and heads, including the shrimps’ heads. Cook for 2 hours, then cool and pass through a fine sieve. Bring this poaching liquid back to a simmer and start adding the fish, one at a time, in order of cooking time. First the squid or octopus, then the scorpionfish, the shrimps, turbot, St. Peter’s fish, and the mullets. Cook till all fish is done.
Prepare a soffritto with garlic and parsley, add to the fish stew and remove from heat. Finish with lemon juice, place in a large serving platter and serve with toasted country bread.
There are as many variations and as many names to this preparation as there are church bells. Just to mention a few: brodetto, caciucco, burrida, cioppin. The type of fish added also varies; some do not add mollusks, some add bivalves, some claim that at least 13 or 14 different types of fish should be used, others use only one variety.
Fish soup. It doesn’t sound inspiring. But in Italy, fish soup rules. Since Italy is bordered by water on three sides, it’s not surprising that there are thousands of variations of Zuppa di Pesce throughout the country, especially in the towns that dot the coastline. As a result, families in the same village often have utterly distinct, yet equally delicious, preparations.
In Genoa, fish soup is called burrida; names residents got from their neighbors in France from the Provencal dialect bourrido (“to boil”). There, it’s a soup made of cuttlefish, angler, and anchovies. In Tuscany, it’s called caciucco, and on the opposite side of Italy, along the Adriatic, it’s referred to as brodetto. Many Americans are familiar with the term “cioppino,” which is not an Italian word. It comes from the Ligurian immigrants in San Francisco and is based on their dialect’s name for the dish, ciuppin.
While this recipe calls for some specific species, feel free to use any firm, light-fleshed fish. There’s a delicate balance to a good Zuppa di Pesce, so strong-flavored fish like salmon or snapper don’t work. No sole or flounder either–they’re too flaky. Instead, use an ample supply of shellfish; whatever’s freshest is best. Finally, make sure you have a good loaf of bread to serve with the Zuppa.
Some traditional preparations from Liguria do not add tomato sauce, as the original recipe calls for the full flavor of the sea to be maintained in the fish soup.