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For 4 people

This stew is made all over Livorno. Intrigued, we took a trip to taste it and work with one or two chefs to see it being made. Of course the fish are slightly different there but what we loved was the richness of the dish through long cooking and the use of tomatoes and red wine. Naturally we have changed a little of what we learnt and it’s now a dish that never leaves the menu – everyone loves a fish stew!

  • 1 head of fennel
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper, roasted, peeled and deseeded
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • pinch off saffron
  • 6 salted anchovies
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • 1 dried bird’s eye chilli
  • 200g good tomato passata
  • 150ml Sangiovese wine
  • 1 litre shellfish stock (see page 252)
  • 4 small monkfish tails
  • 4 small red mullet fillets
  • 4 small gurnard fillets
  • 4 small squid
  • 12 mussels


Roughly chop the fennel, onion and red pepper into smallish pieces, approximately 1–2cm in size.

Gently heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the vegetables and garlic and sweat gently for 5 minutes. Add the saffron, anchovies (and the oil they are in) and oregano, crumble in the dried chilli and cook for a further minute until the anchovies have melted.

Pour in the passata and the red wine. Stir well and increase the heat so it is simmering gently. Cook for 5 minutes to boil off the alcohol.

Remove from the heat and using a stick blender blend the mixture until all ingredients are well blended; you are not looking for a silky smooth texture more of a smooth pulp.

Add the shellfish stock and return to a gentle simmer for about 1 hour. The soup should reduce by about a third.

At this stage the pan can be removed from the heat and stock cooled and stored in the fridge until needed. It will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.

To serve, gently heat the stock in a shallow wide-bottomed pan over a medium heat. Gently add the monkfish, red mullet and gurnard and cook for 5 minutes, then add  the squid and mussels to the pan and cook until the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened.

Serve the fish in a bowl with a little of the stock, with the remaining soup in a bowl on the side.