This hearty and warming Italian seafood stew can be served with crusty sourdough bread or in pie form, depending on the occasion. For celebrated chef Alessandro Pavoni, it recalls memories of his childhood spent with family in the mountains of Italy.
- 2 king prawns
- 1 octopus tentacle
- 4 mussels
- 1 fillet white fish
- 500 g tomato sauce (passata) or a tin of whole peeled tomatoes blended until smooth
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 200 ml olive oil
- 100 ml white wine
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 4 cherry tomatoes, halved
- sourdough bread, to serve
Optional ingredients if you want to serve the cacciucco as a pie
- 1 sheet ready made Shortcrust or puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Add the tomato sauce, garlic, and 100 ml olive oil to a saucepan and let it cook on over a low heat for at least 2 hours, uncovered. Once thickened slightly, set the sauce aside.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan until it reaches smoking point, and then add the mussels and white wine. Cover the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the mussels open. Remove the mussels from the pan and set aside, reserving any excess liquid from the mussels to add flavour to the sauce.
In the same pan, cook the prawns and white fish over a high heat until they are translucent, around 1-2 minutes only, and keep warm. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the hot pan until it reaches smoking point, then lay the octopus down on one side for approximately 1 minute or until it colours, turning to achieve the same colour on both sides of the octopus.
Add one ladle of the tomato sauce to the octopus, and turn the heat down to its lowest setting. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the octopus to rest for another 30 minutes in the pan, still covered.
Add all of the elements you have set aside together in one pot (tomato sauce, octopus in tomato sauce, mussels and excess liquid, prawns and white fish). Cook on the stovetop over a low heat for approximately 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with fresh parsley and cherry tomatoes, and serve with a few slices of sourdough bread on the side.
To serve cacciucco as a pie
Add all of the stew elements to a large pie dish. Lay a sheet of ready-made shortcrust or puff pastry over the top of the dish, cutting away any excess pastry and leaving a 1-2cm rim to hang over the edge of the dish. Brush the top of the pastry with a beaten egg, poke a few ventilation holes in the pastry with a knife, and cook in a preheated oven at 220C for 10 minutes or until golden.