The Italian equivalent of the French bouillabaisse has an infinity of variations and is known by different names depending on the region, town or village in Italy you visit. Traditionally, no fewer than five types of fish go into this cacciucco from the port of Livorno in Tuscany. One for every "C" in the name...
- 2 kg mixed fresh fish fillets and shellfish, such as red mullet, small sole, gurnard, monkfish, sea bass, cuttlefish, baby octopus, prawns, mussels, squid or scallops
- 8 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, plus an extra clove for rubbing
- 1 kg ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped, or 2 x 400 g tins of chopped tomatoes
- 125 ml red wine
- a little chopped fresh chilli
- 3 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6–8 slices good bread, slightly stale or toasted
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.
If your fishmonger hasn’t already done so, clean and prepare your chosen fish and shellfish. Cut fish fillets into large chunks and seafood into manageable pieces.
Put the oil, onion and garlic into a large pan and fry briefly. Add the tomatoes, wine, chilli, parsley and fennel seeds and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes.
Start to add large pieces of fish to the sauce first and those that will take the longest to cook, such as monkfish, then add the more tender fish such as red mullet or sole and the shellfish, ending up with the mussels if using. Cook for 5 or so minutes, or until the fish is cooked and the mussels have opened. Rub the bread with garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and put each slice in the bottom of a deep soup bowl. Pour over the soup. Buon appetito.